Indigenous Coalition Tells Biden Communities Need Clean Water and Climate Action

On the heels of President Joe Biden’s proclamation formally marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a coalition of Indigenous and environmental leaders on Sunday delivered a blunt message to the White House: “We don’t need performative proclamations, our communities are dying.”

The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) — a broad alliance of tribes, Indigenous rights groups, labor organizations, and others — said in a statement that since taking office earlier this year, “Biden has consistently fallen short of protecting the water that sustains all life on Mother Earth and continuously failed to honor our treaties.”

Specifically, IEN pointed to the president’s refusal to block Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project, which Indigenous groups have worked tirelessly to stop for years in the face of brutal police repression and arrests. Oil started flowing through the sprawling pipeline — which could have the equivalent climate impact of 50 new coal-fired power plants — earlier this month, and its opponents have vowed to keep up their legal and on-the-ground fights as the Biden administration continues to defend the tar sands project.

“If President Biden was committed to honoring the treaties and strengthening sovereignty, he would implement a policy of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent by executive authority and act swiftly to mitigate the climate chaos that has engulfed our communities by ending the anti-Indigenous U.S. legacy of fossil fuel extractivism,” IEN said. “We have had enough of your empty words. Our communities need clean water, land returned, divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and healing from residential school traumas.”

“Proclamations don’t erase the police surveillance of Indigenous peoples standing for our land and water, beatings, and imprisonment for those trying to stop pipelines, fracking, [liquefied natural gas], uranium, and other extractive industries from devastating our ecosystems and our bodies and violating our rights,” the coalition added. “No proclamations needed until there is justice for the original stewards of these lands.”

IEN’s statement came just ahead of a five-day “People vs. Fossil Fuels” mobilization targeting the Biden White House over its inadequate climate policies.

While Biden has promised to listen to the science and treat the climate crisis like an “existential threat,” he has continued to pursue drilling initiatives that could ramp up U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and intensify planetary warming.

This week, according to organizers, thousands of Indigenous people and their allies in the climate movement are expected to descend on the White House and engage in “mass civil disobedience” to demand that Biden “declare a climate emergency and stop all new fossil fuel projects.”

On Monday morning, IEN activists wrote “Expect Us” on the statue of Andrew Jackson in front of the White House.

“Our people are older than the idea of the United States of America. We are the original stewards of this land and will continue to fight for the natural and spiritual knowledge of our Mother who sustains our life-ways,” IEN said in a statement Monday. “We are the grandchildren of the strong spirits who have survived your residential schools, your pipelines and mines, your reservations and relocation and your forced assimilation and genocide.”

“We carry the prayers and intentions of our ancestors and are unafraid,” the group added. “Another world is possible, may all colonizers fall.”