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News > World

Land and Body: Indigenous Groups Fight Environmental Violence

  • Image of a 2012 “Idle No More” protest

    Image of a 2012 “Idle No More” protest | Photo: Screenshot/YouTube

Published 7 June 2016

Indigenous people and allies will take to social media this week with the hashtag #LandBodyDefense to raise awareness about the violent impacts of extractive industries.

Indigenous land and rights defenders launched a week-long campaign Monday to take a stand against environmental violence across North America and raise awareness about the links between land and body with regards to the climate, health, community safety, and human rights consequences of extractive industries like fracking and pipeline expansion, especially against Indigenous women and youth.

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Under the banner #LandBodyDefense, the campaign also aims to promote community-led alternatives to tackle environmental violence in Indigenous communities, including culturally appropriate healing and other local solutions and advocacy.

“Fracking, mining, pipelines, and other extractive industries not only cause severe environmental damage, but they have significant impacts on people’s health, safety and human rights,” reads the Land Body Defense toolkit. “There is nowhere this is more apparent than on Indigenous lands.”

The strategies promoted by the campaign, detailed in the report "Violence on the Land, Violence on our Bodies: Building an Indigenous Response to Environmental Violence,” are designed to give communities tools to immediately respond to problems on the ground, while not leaving them to hold their breath for a local or federal policy overhaul.

The campaign, a multi-year initiative spearheaded by the Women’s Earth Alliance and Native Youth Sexual Health Network, uses the term environmental violence to shine light on a whole wave of negative consequences, including increased domestic and sexual violence, illnesses, crime, drugs and alcohol, and threats to Indigenous culture and livelihoods that accompany the expansion of extractive industries into their territories.

“In general, this onslaught of dirty development reaps havoc on communities — tearing apart social fabric, assaulting people’s bodies, and injuring the land,” explains the campaign toolkit. “Their experiences and testimonials tell a story we all need to know, so that the violence can stop and communities can begin to heal.”

The campaign runs from June 6-10 and calls for participation from Indigenous communities and their allies across North America, also referred to as Turtle Island, by sharing photos and experiences on social media and making local connections to discuss the real, lived impacts of extractive industries on land and bodies.

And organizers argue that such action and awareness is becoming more urgent than ever.

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“With natural gas and oil extraction intensifying in North America, it is important now more than ever to amplify the voices of those most impacted: the Indigenous people from communities adjacent to the contaminated soil, open-air wastewater pits, and dangerous industry workers’ camps,” reads the "Violence on the Land, Violence on Our Bodies" report.

The launch of the campaign comes after members of one such affected Indigenous community, the Grassy Narrows First Nation in the Canadian province of Ontario, traveled over 1,000 miles to Toronto to demand that provincial authorities move to ensure that over 50-year old mercury contamination that has poisoned the community finally be cleaned up.

Grassy Narrows is just one case among dozens of stories of environmental violence that the week-long campaign aims to bring into the spotlight to spark a crucial discussion about the impacts of fracking, oil extraction, nuclear power, logging, and other industries.

The campaign runs until Friday and can be followed on social media with the hashtag #LadyBodyDefense.

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