2023 Year in Review

As the 2023 calendar year closes, we at IEN reflect on our vast network of Indigenous Peoples, allies, and frontline communities who have stood with us, offering their Traditional Indigenous Knowledge, love, inspiration, expertise and prayers for the many challenges we have faced throughout the year in efforts to achieve a sustainable future for all of life on Mother Earth.

We want to take this time to convey our gratitude for everyone who has contributed to our work over the past years. Everything we have accomplished is in no small part due to you. When you share our social media, send a friend or family member a copy of one of our newsletters and they subscribe, our circle grows. 

Historically, for Indigenous Peoples, wintertime is for slowing down, for rest, and reflecting on the past year, honoring natural cycles, acknowledging the interconnectedness between humanity and the natural world. This quiet time is also for sharing stories that teach and inspire us to continue to defend Mother Earth for the coming generations. As we recount in this last 2023 newsletter some of the powerful work by IEN board, staff and contractors, we offer it as a prayer, a seed to be planted in the hearts and minds of all who receive it, that it might sprout and grow to realize real change in the years ahead.

CLIMATE JUSTICE

Climate Justice team members conducted field work with ally organizations in Brazil, Colombia, Greenland, and across Turtle Island to understand the impacts of policies related to environmental services, REDD+, geoengineering, debt swaps for nature and climate, and several other pressing issues. In addition, staff was asked to join two research groups which provide advisory and structure for Arctic research and how researchers engage with communities. CJP staff and contractors wrote and edited several official submissions to UN bodies and mechanisms on several issues related to climate change, the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the need for a binding global phase-out of fossil fuels, as well as US federal and state submissions including: the Project Tundra in North Dakota, and the impact of the Navigator pipeline to the state of Minnesota.

IEN’s Climate Justice team was instrumental in establishing a new alliance called the Alliance Against Offsets in the Farm Bill to track carbon offsets proposals in the US Farm Bill negotiations, as well as participated in writing, producing and organizing the Banking on Climate Chaos report launched in April, at the UNFCCC Bonn, Germany intersessional meetings. Further, the CJP organized a popular education training for trainers on false solutions, creating a Ring of Fire cohort comprised of 15 Indigenous representatives across Turtle Island. Several of these cohort members put their training into action at this year’s COP28 in Dubai, UAE, as members of the IEN delegation. These are just a few of the major events and collaborations that took place in 2023 for the CJP!

Indigenous Feminisms

The connection between all forms of extractivism and the lives and bodies of Indigenous women is a central concept of IEN’s Indigenous Feminisms program. What happens to the land happens to the body; when the land is cared for, protected, and healed, so too are the nations, communities, families, lives, and bodies of Indigenous Peoples. When Indigenous women and femmes reclaim their positions of influence, power and agency, our bodies, lives, families, communities, nations, and Mother Earth herself are healed.

In 2023 the Indigenous Matriarchy/Feminism Gathering was held in Bemidji, MN, the headquarters of the Indigenous Environmental Network. The gathering brought together over 25 indigenous women and femmes from across Turtle Island. During our time together we deepened our analysis on the connection between extractive industries and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women- MMIW crisis, as well as the connection between the Indian Child Welfare Act and how intersectional reproductive justice is intertwined with extractive industries, and more. An emphasis was placed on practicing communication with sacred listening while uplifting our Indigenous women and femmes. We look forward to the coming year when we will offer resources and learning modules to our sisters and friends, networks, and allies. 

IEN Teaching Garden

The IEN Teaching Garden is an Indigenous-led community garden focused on knowledge sharing, urban conservation and restoration and food sovereignty. Creating a safe space for the community to connect with the land. 

In 2023, the garden continued to spread its roots out through the local community as we expanded the garden by planting food, medicine, and pollinator plants in and around the Rail River corridor. In the early spring we added a new building, the Slovenian Bee House to help our honey bees over winter better.  We had an exciting year of workshops led by local knowledge keepers that included weaving with willows, planting for pollinators, beading garden bugs, buffalo and elk hide tanning and making hominy and more. We also hosted a Seed and Plant Sharing event that gave out many seeds and seedlings to the local community.

We look forward to the 2024 season as we plan to continue the growth of the garden to provide more food access and knowledge sharing opportunities to the local community.

Keep It In The Ground

This year the KIITG program focused on growing our team and strengthening our community connections. We welcomed a new divestment  organizer who is leading a more cohesive approach in the divestment space by continuing the work of targeting the insurance sector, primarily Liberty Mutual, JP Morgan Chase, as well as Bank of America. 

Throughout the year our mining organizer visited impacted communities to learn directly about grassroots organizing efforts happening on the ground and participated in local events and attended the 80th Annual National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) conference held in New Orleans.  A significant part of the KIITG mining work also involves the IEN/WMAN Mining Mini-Grant program, partnering with the Western Mining Action Network to provide financial assistance to communities confronting mining issues. Our mining organizer joined the WMAN steering committee, and in September, attended an in-person meeting in Montreal to plan next year’s bi-annual conference.

Moreover, the KIITG played a pivotal role in organizing our engagement and advocacy during this year’s Climate Week in NYC. There, we co-organized the massive March to End Fossil Fuels alongside the People vs Fossil Fuels coalition and others, as well as hosted a two day event at The New School, ‘Peoples’ Agenda’, a Peoples’ Climate week launch. There KIITG co-organized various panels and teach-in sessions on false solutions.

In 2024, the KIITG program will continue to hold community convenings to build trusted relationships, share resources, and collaborate with our many Indigenous communities to ensure our rights of self-determination are preserved, respected and as we work toward an Indigenous Just Transition for our communities on Turtle Island and across Mother Earth.

Indigenous Just Transition

The Indigenous Just Transition (IJT) program planning was initiated in December of 2022 beginning with a staff and advisory committee meeting held in Phoenix Arizona.

Throughout the spring and into fall, a series of workshops and projects around food sovereignty, local micro-grid renewable energy systems, seed rematriation, traditional farming methods, ethnobotany as well as language, culture and traditional arts revitalization were conducted as part of the ongoing IJT demonstration project located on the lands of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara people.

From September to November IJT staff began working with a local organizer, Marie Gladue, to host the first in a series of regional IJT gatherings, in Flagstaff, Arizona. With 64 registered attendees and local folks who attended, we had approximately 75 in attendance for the two days. From this event, a Declaration of Solidarity between the Pueblo and Dineh Relatives was read into the record of the IJT Assembly to protect Chaco Canyon! Planning has already begun for the next IJT Regional Gathering which will take place in the spring of 2024 and we look forward to another year supporting local communities’ visions of an Indigenous Just Transition future. 

Another Indigenous Just Transition regional workshop is planned for the spring with others throughout the year. The Climate Justice team is planning events as are all IEN program teams with participation in continued meetings and negotiations related to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that hopefully will lead to a more promising COP29 after a disappointing COP28, held in oil-dependent Dubai, UAE, presided over by an oil executive and overrun by oil and gas lobbyists and CEOs.

Indigenous Sovereignty

In March 2023, IEN hired its first official Indigenous Sovereignty Advocate staffed position, however, the work in this area has been ongoing for some time. The key areas of work have been in the Inherent Relationships Jurisprudence Project (IRJ), Indigenous Just Transition, and issues pertaining to the Facilitated Working Group (FWG) of the UNFCCC.

IRJ is a joint Project with the Earth Law Center and was initiated in 2022.  It is focused on uplifting Indigenous legal systems based upon Traditional Indigenous Knowledge (TIK) and how those systems include the inherent relationships that respective Indigenous Nations have with the lands, waters, air and all on, in and above on which they live.  These give rise to customary, and treaty reserved rights in the non-Indigenous legal system.  It is our position that Rights of Nature, while important, can inadvertently undermine our respective inherent relationships at times, even while respecting Indigenous Peoples.  Inherent Relationships Jurisprudence then, is viewed as sitting alongside the Rights of Nature, and other Eurocentric rights-based legal frameworks in an equitable manner, being of the same status. To this end, we have so far conducted seven work sessions on Inherent Relationships Jurisprudence in the following locations: Durango, Colorado; Bemidji Minnesota; Toronto, Ontario; Seattle, Washington; Honolulu, Hawaii; Redding, California; and Oakland, California. 

IEN advances various Indigenous Peoples related concerns, including the advancement of an Ethical Protocol for the Protection and Use of Indigenous Knowledge. The FWG meetings are closely tied to the UNFCCC COP process via the the Facilitated Working Group (FWG) is part of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP). IEN was successful in the 10th meeting of the FWG at this COP28 and our submission on an Ethical Protocol will likely be considered in the body’s next three-year work plan.

Indigenous Water Ethics

IEN has a history of participation in World Water Forum, since 2003 in Kyoto, Japan. Our activity is based on the call for an Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace originated from Elders at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education in Hilo, Hawaii in 1999. 

Transboundary water work is multilayered work in peacemaking, human and planetary health, ritual, values, culture, spirituality, healing our relationships with each other and the land, protection of biodiversity, relationship to sacred sites and the original instructions to care for them and justice in its many forms. 

Water runs through it all. Restoring our Relationship to Water – Wisdom, Values, Rights explores the multifaceted and holistic nature of our relationship to water and the benefits of centering Indigenous Wisdom to understand the complex value of water.The Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace delegation affirmed that humanity needs a paradigm shift in its relationship with water and Mother Earth from a relationship of destruction and abuse to a relationship where we care, nurture, maintain, sustain and protect Mother Earth.

IEN’s Indigenous Water Ethics Organizer participated various global events and dialogues related to water, and made important interventions and recommendations such as: balance between western and Indigenous ways of knowing, laws and science; Indigenous Peoples’ role in the monitoring and standard setting for water quality for the next seven generations; full recognition and implementation of UNDRIP in any matters concerning water and with full prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples; and much more. 

IEN will continue creating and supporting collaboration spaces, as well as, incorporating Indigenous knowledge and natural laws about water in 2024 and beyond. We will continue to focus our outreach on Indigenizing, decolonizing, how we will meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs), promote peace and security, and provide a healthy life for all.

Communications

This past year the IEN communications team has added to our portfolio of successful projects and coverage of events and gatherings – overall we focused on adding and enhancing everyone’s skills and talents and methods used to coordinate content and messaging on our many media platforms – to respond to requests for speakers, interviews and outreach to journalists and academia. IEN’s leadership supported our  critical investment in advanced training and equipment to perfect our skills, and cross train as much as possible, thus making us more agile and responsive. All this and we were able to keep up with rapid responses in the EJ movement. Our IEN Communications department is committed to producing high quality and Indigenous-designed media, and we continue to grow and affirm our media as a credible news source for our communities and movements. 

During our annual staff meeting in June, our front-line communications team members received media kits that included audio and video equipment specifically chosen to facilitate documenting actions and events on the front lines and in the moment. The quality of the content captured is especially valuable for post-production presentations that continue to be key elements in our library of education outreach materials. The communications team is charged with ensuring that our social media, digital media publications, radio and video and audio production remain consistent with our original mandate to adhere to our original instructions and Natural Law as it applies to Traditional Indigenous Knowledge of our wisdom keepers. Our messaging reflects the reality that Indigenous Peoples aren’t a monolith and therefore we respect each Nation, Tribe, Clan, or confederacy’s lifeways – and do all in our power to provide platforms for every community to speak for themselves – or to choose the message(s) and who will represent them.

Over the years we’ve assisted in the production and dissemination of analysis, data, and first-person stories from Indigenous and grassroots communities in industrial and extractive sacrifice zones in the Global North and South. Unfortunately, the stories that we hear the most of are accounts of tragic consequences from ruptured oil pipelines, and increased toxic emissions releases. The narratives include the identification of the connections and interrelated issues of systemic racial, cultural, climate, and environmental injustices. Our collective efforts during this past year has helped produce, distribute, and promote issue-specific webinars, video presentations, and radio programming. In 2024 we will continue these efforts and branch out further… stay tuned!

This coming year we will continue to fine-tune our ways of storytelling, outreach methods and sources that continue to deeply immerse us and renew our commitment to continue to build and maintain two-way communication pathways of reciprocity and respect.  

As the 2023 calendar year closes, we at IEN reflect on our vast network of Indigenous Peoples, allies, and frontline communities…

IEN Family Portrait - Bemidji MN - 2023

At the end of each year we send out a snapshot of the issues, where we’ve traveled, who we’ve engaged with, and recap the highlights of the last 12 months. And once a year, we ask, for those who are able, to make a donation that will help us keep the lights on. All donations, no matter what time of the year, help provide us with the resources for outreach in Indigenous communities, supporting grassroots leadership with communication tools and training.  Because of your generosity we’re able to assist Indigenous communities, in various ways.  Our outreach is determined by community-defined requests that are tailored to their unique environment, natural and cultural needs.  This is absolutely vital for building relationships, sharing knowledge and capacity with and for our relatives across Turtle Island and beyond. Donations allow us to maintain and expand our outreach to end the violence of extractivism and to drastically change the paradigms that ignore the writing on the wall.

It was at times an overwhelming year, with battles on federal policy like the Willow Project that were in direct opposition to President Biden’s campaign promises. Biden also backtracked on promises to stop the MVP by signing Manchin-written legislation that included line items from an American Petroleum Institute’s wish list to the June 2023 passage of federal legislation raising the debt ceiling. With the stroke of a pen, Biden took the final step that nullified several valid legal challenges to the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to ensure the eventual completion of the pipeline. Politicians from oil and gas rich states also supported this end-run around the courts and as claimed by legal scholars, a violation of the fundamental separation of government powers. This was another step taken that may eventually eliminate credibly-conducted environmental impact studies and science-based reasons for rejecting or modifying permits. Our goal in the coming year will be to ensure a higher level of accountability than we can expect now.  

But, with IEN staff on a quiet and introspective break from Dec. 22 – Jan. 3, 2024, then returning inspired by the incredible amount of accomplishments in 2023, we are undaunted. More outreach, more goals, objectives, and exciting events for 2024 are in planning stages.

Perhaps most exciting is the return of IEN’s Protecting Mother Earth conference, after five years of dormancy due to the pandemic. The 2024 PME is scheduled for August 1-4, 2024, in Cherokee, North Carolina, to be hosted by the Eastern Cherokee Organization, led by Eastern Band Cherokee matriarchs Mary Crowe and Lisa Montelongo and welcomed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

We expect as many as 1,500 participants to come from many diverse Indigenous nations, societies, groups and organizations from across the world, with most coming from Turtle Island and the Western Hemisphere. The PME has shown the ability to educate, train, and develop much needed dialogue and strategy around environmental justice issues affecting Indigenous Peoples and our lands, territories, air, and waters. Held in regional locations on Indigenous territories throughout Turtle Island, the PME has become a vast coalition-building success connecting Indigenous communities throughout the Americas and indeed, the world. 

As we close our 2023 calendars, we look forward to the promise of our Indigenous new year that for many of us begins with springtime, the time of rebirth and renewal. We are grateful for your continued support and ongoing attention to the enormous concerns and issues of Indigenous Peoples, for those issues and concerns ultimately affect each and every one of us. The transformation we seek is to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth from contamination and exploitation, which includes those who hoard wealth and power and see all living beings as dispensable.

A just transition will require the massive transfer of wealth to a system that respects the sacredness and the relationship of all life to water, to land, to our bodies, and transitions away from an extractive economy that devours Mother Earth and poisons life –  to a living and regenerative economy. Your financial donations help us meet our objectives and goals in more ways than we can count.

This coming year we will continue to fine-tune our ways of storytelling, outreach methods and sources that continue to deeply immerse us and renew our commitment to continue to build and maintain two-way communication pathways of reciprocity and respect.  

We are humbled and honored by the consistent support from donors, no matter how small or large the donation may be – you are all in our prayers and we gratefully acknowledge each and every one of you, for all you do, everyday to hold accountable those responsible for the injustices, disinformation, and exploitation of Mother Earth, her children, our relatives, both human and non-human. 

Join us in this movement to build power from the ground up. You can make a one-time or recurring donation by clicking here. And for all U.S. taxpayers, your donation(s) are tax deductible! You can find The EIN number needed to report a donation on our team page on our website.

From our family to yours, we pray for the peace, wellness, and love we all strive for, every day. May your New Year be filled with positive steps forward to these ends.

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