As Swinomish Tribal Chairman and President of the National Congress of American Indians Brian Cladoosby remarked recently, “Over the last 100 years, our most sacred site, the Salish Sea, has been deeply impacted by our pollution-based economy. We have decided no more and we are stepping forward.”
The pollution-based economy Cladoosby refers to includes environmentally devastating oil and coal mega-projects in Canada and the United States. As Wall Street seeks to cash in on fossil fuel export, the Tar Sands, the Powder River Basin coal mines and the Bakken Shale oil fields are a notorious part of that pollution-based economy threatening the Salish Sea.
As Dine scholar Larry Emerson noted, “our relationship to seventh generation principles of sustainability has been disrupted.” Contending with a legacy of corruption, plundered land, water and air, Dine (Navajo) youth — who’ve been culturally and ecologically devastated by the intergenerational traumas from uranium and coal mining — are demanding “the right to healthy Dine identities and ethical, sacred ecological lifestyles.”
Fear and greed are tools companies like Peabody Coal, Pacific International Terminals and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad use to divide and conquer indigenous peoples and American communities from the mountains of Appalachia to the mesas of Arizona and the shores of the Salish Sea. Stepping forward together as peoples of conscience means enlisting our humanity in combination with others.
As the renowned human rights organizer Bill Wassmuth observed, “To enhance and ensure our survival, it is not only noble, but necessary, to act upon the voice within.”