Established in 1990 within the United States, IEN was formed by grassroots Indigenous peoples and individuals to address environmental and economic justice issues (EJ). IEN’s activities include building the capacity of Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities.IEN accomplishes this by maintaining an informational clearinghouse, organizing campaigns, direct actions and public awareness, building the capacity of community and tribes to address EJ issues, development of initiatives to impact policy, and building alliances among Indigenous communities, tribes, inter-tribal and Indigenous organizations, people-of-color/ethnic organizations, faith-based and women groups, youth, labor, environmental organizations and others. IEN convenes local, regional and national meetings on environmental and economic justice issues, and provides support, resources and referral to Indigenous communities and youth throughout primarily North America – and in recent years – globally.


  1. Educate and empower Indigenous Peoples to address and develop strategies for the protection of our environment, our health, and all life forms – the Circle of Life.
  2. Re-affirm our traditional knowledge and respect of natural laws.
  3. Recognize, support, and promote environmentally sound lifestyles, economic livelihoods, and to build healthy sustaining Indigenous communities.
  4. Commitment to influence policies that affect Indigenous Peoples on a local, tribal, state, regional, national and international
  5. Include youth and elders in all levels of our work.
  6. Protect our human rights to practice our cultural and spiritual beliefs.

Organizational History

Like all great movements, the Native environmental justice movement, and in essence IEN, was born of desire, need and struggle. IEN’s desire in particular, springs from our love for Mother Earth and our connection to all of creation. The need for IEN grew from the wounds inflicted upon the earth from the collective greed of humanity.

IEN was born in 1990 from a national gathering of tribal grassroots youth and Indigenous leadership to discuss our common experiences regarding environmental assaults on our lands, waters, communities and villages. At that time, a significant number of our tribal communities and villages were targeted for large toxic municipal and hazardous waste dumps and nuclear waste storage facilities and with industrial and mineral development in Indian country literally leaking and oozing out of the ground with toxic poisons. Organizing around environmental issues was relatively new to many of the tribal grassroots members and their tribal governments in the early 90’s.

Following the 1990 gathering, Indigenous activists, youth and concerned tribal community members continued to meet year after year in various locations in the U.S. to put our minds, heart and spirit together for a common course of action as a means to restore our homelands to environmental health and harmony. From these initial gatherings the idea of IEN was born — an idea born of hope, courage and common vision.

In the years that followed, the idea for IEN continued to flourish, as these annual gatherings became an excellent organizing and education venue to reach out to Indigenous peoples throughout North America.

These annual gatherings became known as Protecting Mother Earth Gatherings and in this spirit; the foundation of IEN’s work was built. The IEN annual conference gatherings have demonstrated the ability to educate, train, and develop needed dialogue and strategy development around environmental justice issues affecting Indigenous peoples and our lands. Our annual gatherings have been held at different regional locations around the country, including Alaska and have become a vast coalition building effort connecting indigenous communities throughout the Americas and the world. The 12th Protecting Mother Earth Gathering in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, August 2001, was the first held in Canada. That was the last gathering, with the next gathering planned for June 2004 near the sacred Bear Butte in South Dakota.

IEN begin to hire staff starting in 1995. From 1995 to present, IEN’s staff, its governing body and community-based advisers devoted an incredible amount of effort to develop the capacity of IEN to meet its growing responsibility to serve both tribal grassroots communities and tribal governmental environmental staff on environmental justice issues.

IEN has supported many communities with technical information, assisted in environmental campaign strategy, and has fulfilled its mandate to be a vehicle to provide a voice and to be the “eyes and ears” of tribal grassroots, traditional leadership and small disenfranchised tribes and Alaska villages on environmental justice issues.

The experience of IEN grows each year. We continue to learn to develop and support a national and international network that maintains an Indigenous peoples and youth constituency with a grassroots focus.

IEN has become a mechanism that opens constructive dialogue between tribal members, youth and their tribal governments as a means to strengthen tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction on environmental justice and sacred site issues.

Mission, Principles and Code of Ethics

In 1991, near the sacred Bear Butte in South Dakota, near 500 Native people came together at the outdoor 2nd Annual IEN Protecting Mother Earth gathering. At this gathering, this Unifying Principle and the Environmental Code of Ethics were written.

Mission Statement

IEN is an alliance of Indigenous Peoples whose Shared Mission is to Protect the Sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination & exploitation by Respecting and Adhering to Indigenous Knowledge and Natural Law

Unifying Principles

The Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have lived for over 500 years in confrontation with an immigrant society that holds an opposing world view. As a result we are now facing an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of all natural life.

In 1991, near the sacred Bear Butte in South Dakota, near 500 Native people came together at the outdoor 2nd Annual IEN Protecting Mother Earth gathering. At this gathering, this Unifying Principle and the Environmental Code of Ethics were written.

The Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have lived for over 500 years in confrontation with an immigrant society that holds an opposing world view. As a result we are now facing an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of all natural life.

We believe in unified action, sharing of information, and working together with mutual respect. We recognize we must assert our sovereignty and jurisdictional rights through the application of our traditional laws and recognizing our traditional forms of leadership of our indigenous nations. We stand on principles of empowering and supporting each other to take direct, informed action and affect our ability to protect our lands from contamination and exploitation. By attempting to fulfill our responsibility to defend our mother earth we are assuring the survival of our unborn generations.

The members of IEN are unified in our recognition that the traditional teachings, lifestyles, spirituality, cultures and leadership of our people as well as the survival of our future generations, are entirely dependent upon our respectful relationship with the natural world and our responsibility to the sacred principles given to us by the creator.

“SNAP-SHOT” of environmental and economic justice issues in indigenous lands (US-CANADA)

  1. Toxic contaminants, agricultural pesticides and other industrial chemicals that disproportionately impact Indigenous peoples, especially
    subsistence and livestock cultures.
  2. Inadequate governmental environment and health standards and regulations.
  3. Clean up of contaminated lands from mining, military, and other industry activities.
  4. Toxic incinerators and landfills on and near Indigenous lands.
  5. Inadequate solid and hazardous waste and wastewater management capacity of Indigenous communities and tribes.
  6. Unsustainable mining and oil development on and near Indigenous lands.
  7. National energy policies at the expense of the rights of Indigenous peoples.
  8. Climate change and global warming.
  9. Coal mining and coal-fired power plants resulting in mercury contamination, water depletion, destruction of sacred sites and environmental degradation.
  10. Uranium mining developments and struggles to obtain victim compensation to Indigenous uranium miners, millers, processors and Downwinders of past nuclear testing experiments.
  11. Nuclear waste dumping in Indigenous lands.
  12. Deforestation.
  13. Water rights, water quantity and privatization of water.
  14. Economic globalization putting stress on Indigenous peoples
    and local ecosystems.
  15. Border justice, trade agreements and transboundary waste and contamination along the US/Mexico/Canada borders and other Indigenous lands worldwide.
  16. Failure of the US government to fulfill its mandated responsibility to provide funding to tribes and Alaska villages to develop and
    implement environmental protection infrastructures.
  17. Backlash from US state governments giving in to the lobbying pressures of industry and corporations against the right of tribes to implement their own water and air quality standards.
  18. Protection of sacred, historical and cultural significant areas.
  19. Biological diversity and endangered species.
  20. Genetically modified organisms impacting the environment, traditional plants and seeds and intellectual rights of Indigenous peoples – bio-colonialism.
  21. Economic blackmail and lack of sustainable economic and community development resources.
  22. Just transition of workers and communities impacted by industry on and near Indigenous lands.
  23. Urban sprawl and growth on and near Indigenous lands.
  24. Failure of colonial governments and their programs to adequately consult with or address environmental protection, natural resource
    conservation, environmental health, and sacred/historical site issues affecting traditional Indigenous lands and its Indigenous peoples.
  25. De-colonization and symptoms of internalized oppression/racism/tribalism.
  26. And many others ..



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