October 6, 2023, New York – In advance of Monday’s holiday, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:
From our offices on Lenape territory in lower Manhattan, we stand in solidarity with Indigenous Nations and Peoples around the world, who continue to fight to protect their rights, lands, and lifeways against colonialism and racism. Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island have survived and resisted more than 500 years of colonial violence and occupation of their land.
Colonization of Indigenous lands continues with the destruction of Earth for corporate profits, enforced by police and military forces of the U.S. and other settler governments.
Indigenous resistance to corporate plunder is protecting Earth for all of us
A 2021 report by Indigenous Environmental Network, shows Indigenous campaigns are resisting extractive projects equal to at least one quarter of all U.S. and Canadian greenhouse gas pollution. Reports have shown that while Indigenous Peoples make up approximately five percent of the global population, they protect nearly eighty percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.
Defending Earth collectively, for future generations, is all of our responsibility.
Root of climate crisis
The root of the current climate crisis lies in settler colonialism, extractive capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchal violence. When extractive industries move into Indigenous territories, there is an increase of violence against Indigenous women, children, Two Spirit people, femmes, and others. Core to these systems of domination is the so-called ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ which underlies all U.S. claims to Indigenous lands. The racist ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court as recently as 2005 in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, with the majority decision against the Oneida Nation written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works alongside Indigenous Peoples
We have a long history of collaboration with Indigenous Peoples in their struggles against the U.S. government and extractive industries. We are proud to have defended the rights of American Indian Movement (AIM) leaders who faced criminal charges for their historic occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. Today, we continue to call for the release of AIM political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who has been held for 48 years. Last month, 35 people were arrested in a civil disobedience action outside of the White House demanding President Biden release Leonard Peltier through Executive Clemency.
In recent years, we represented Krystal Two Bulls, an Oglala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne organizer who faced a spurious legal attack from the co-owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline stemming from her activism at Standing Rock; and we defended Indigenous Water Protectors in 2017, when that same company came after them for resisting construction on the other end of that pipeline, in Louisiana. We also successfully represented the Ramapough Lenape Nation when their opposition to the Pilgrim Pipeline led to harassment and outrageous fines. In a report that we produced with The Red Nation and other allies, we detail how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) exerts corporate influence over state lawmakers to wage attacks on Indigenous and allied Water Protectors.
We continue to challenge a so-called ‘critical infrastructure’ law in Louisiana, in our case White Hat v. Landry. Our client, Anne White Hat is a member of the Aske Tiospaye (clan) of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate. The Sicangu Lakota are one of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires of the Lakota Oyate (the Lakota Nation).
Indigenous organizers are leading frontline fights around the world in defense of the planet
We uplift the words of Indigenous leader Tupac Enrique Acosta, of Tonatierra, who calls on us to follow the lead of Indigenous Nations in Bolivia who proclaimed October 12 as the Day of Decolonization: “There is a need to move beyond the cultural gesture of simply relabeling of ‘Columbus Day’ into ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ in the Gregorian Calendar of North America, while the structural dynamics of the colonization project that began 530 years ago continues full force.”
Today, and every day, we continue to fight alongside Indigenous Peoples as they assert their sovereignty, and maintain their fights for self-determination, upholding treaties, land back, and a world where all live in right relationship with Earth.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.