February 2024

Dear Relatives, 
Punxsutawney Phil, Pennsylvania’s celebrated weather predicting groundhog, this year on February 2 heralded an early spring. In reality, February was a mix of winter storms and above normal temperatures for most of us across Turtle Island. But many IEN staff, across much of the country, braved freezing temperatures and even snow to support the work of IEN and our frontline Indigenous communities in our efforts to protect and defend Mother Earth.
IEN Indigenous Just Transition Organizer Mary (Missy) Crowe (Eastern Band Cherokee) kicked off February as the keynote speaker at the Creation Care Symposium held February 2 and 3, 2024, at Montreat College in Black Mountain, NC. Her presentation, comparing her Cherokee Creation story, including animals who spoke, with that of the Bible was well received and she received a standing ovation. On February 15, 2024, Mary was at Berry College in Rome, GA, with the Coosa River Basin Alliance for the premier of their documentary podcast, “Downstream,” for which Mary was interviewed. On February 17, 2024, Mary joined Dr. Crystal Cavalier-Keck and Jason Keck, founders of 7 Directions of Service organization for a seven mile Water Walk at the Dan River in Eden, NC, to protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline.


On February 14, 2024, the National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR), IEN Indigenous Feminisms Lead and Operations Director Simone Senogles (Red Lake Anishinaabe) supported the Bemidji, MN, organization MMIW218 by participating in its annual rally and walk, raising awareness for our Indigenous relatives who remain missing and murdered in the wider Bemidji area. 

Next day, February 15, 2024, IEN Indigenous Feminisms Organizer Claire Charlo (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes), and CSKT youth Remi Still Smoking joined 200 immigrant, Palestinian, Jewish youth and allies in a Washington, DC, rally in the Cannon Building Rotunda to demand a ceasefire in Gaza and permanent protections for immigrants. Thirteen youths were arrested by Capitol Police. 

“Indigenous Environmental Network stands in solidarity with our immigrant, Black, Brown and Palestinian relatives. We recognize that our struggles against colonialism and imperialism parallels each other’s. The US government cannot continue to fund genocide,” Charlo stated.

Back home in Montana, on February 23, 2024, Claire and Remi also participated in a vigil in Missoula for 16-year-old non-binary and Two Spirit teen, Nex Benedict. On February 8, 2024, Nex died tragically after a physical altercation, the previous day, with three other students in an Owasso, OK, High School. Allegedly, Nex was knocked to the floor and hit their head, according to a February 22, 2024, story in The Independent. According to the story, the teens had bullied Nex since the beginning of the 2023 school year. Though Nex had bruises on the face and eyes, and complained of a headache, the school did not call for emergency care for the student. We recognize that our 2SLGBTQIA+ relatives are often targeted for their mere existence and they experience disproportionate levels of violence. These relatives are important and valued members of our community, and as a society we must do more to protect them. Our hearts and condolences go out to the family and friends of Nex. 

Moreover, on February 19, 2024, all IEN staff and leadership enjoyed a day off to celebrate Chief’s Day. IEN Executive Director Tom Goldtooth (Diné, Dakota) said, “IEN honors all our Chiefs and Leaders of the many sovereign Indigenous Nations. Today, the US and state governments have a holiday, celebrating its founding leader G. Washington and later expanded to include A. Lincoln. We use this moment to affirm our own.”

Winter has kept us busy and has given us many good stories to share, but sadly some deeply disturbing ones as well. As March blows in like a lion, hopefully with the last of the 2023-2024 winter season, genocide against the people of Palestine continues. With the Palestinian death toll nearing 30,000 since October 7, 2023, the Israeli government is planning a full-scale invasion of Rafah, in the Gaza strip. Responding to a global call to action, millions of people around the world, including the United States, will march for Palestine on Saturday, March 2, 2024. More information can be found at shutitdownforpalestine.org.

As we move into March, IEN’s Indigenous Just Transition Team headed by Loren White, Jr., (Arikara, Hidatsa, Mandan) will travel to Alaska, A’akw Kwáan territory, joined by their colleague Talia Boyd (Diné), IEN Mining Organizer, for the Just Transition Summit. Convened by the Alaska Just Transition Collective, the phrase “Remembering Forward,” is the organization’s “roadmap” and describes the theme of the gathering. More information can be found at justtransitionak.org.

We look forward to the signs of spring, of trees beginning to bud and flowers to bloom, with longer days and more hours of sunlight, to enjoy getting out of doors in the natural world. With that in mind, IEN staff and leadership continue to plan our Protecting Mother Earth Conference to be held August 1-4, 2024, in Cherokee, NC, on the Eastern Cherokee Band of Indians’ Qualla Boundary. IEN staff Mary Crowe (EBCI) and longtime IEN relative and supporter Lisa Montelongo (EBCI) welcomed IEN audio and solar technician, Govinda Dalton, to their homeland the weekend of February 23, 2024. Dalton met with key EBCI community members and, in the mix of wind, rain and snow, walked the proposed conference site for layout logistics like crowd and traffic capacity and WiFi and cell service. 

With today’s instant communications at our fingertips, news headlines and social media can make the work of creating peaceful, healthy, just and sustainable communities seem next to impossible. But, keep in mind, there are many diverse organizations and individuals working in the same positive direction. Today’s youth are intelligent, creative and bold. Science and Traditional Indigenous Knowledge in tandem with respect for Mother Earth and innovative leadership and problem solving can lead us out of the mess that Indigenous Peoples were told was the epitome of civilization.

It’s time to listen to Indigenous Peoples who hold the solutions to society’s downfall, and are making positive changes towards an Indigenous Just Transition

This February the Keep It In The Ground (KIITG) team has been hard at work, supporting grassroots communities fighting extractive industries. Our KIITG team published a letter of support for the Havasupai Tribe who are opposing the Pinyon Plain uranium mine, which is desecrating their sacred landscape of Red Butte and threatening their primary water supply. The transportation routes for the uranium ore will be transported through Navajo and Hopi tribal lands to the last operating conventional uranium mill in the United States, the White Mesa mill located only 4 miles from the Ute Mountain Ute White Mesa community.
Further organizing efforts included attending the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Thematic Hearing on Impacts to Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights from Uranium Exploitation in Washington D.C. on Feb 28, 2024 to support the Indigenous grassroots leaders who will be testifying before the commission. Our team continues to contribute to the annual Banking on Climate Chaos report, as well as continuing to support the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux grassroots in the fight against DAPL.

Tribe celebrates the acquisition of their traditional homelands
The Tonkawa Tribe had been forced to cede its homelands in what is now Texas more than a century ago. The tribe ended up in what is now northern Oklahoma, 450 miles from Naton Samox, the mountain at the center of their creation story. Tribal member Russel Martin made the eight-hour drive to Naton Samox, about 80 miles northeast of Austin, in the fall of 2022 to meet with a documentary crew. Martin took in the landscape scene and knew the mountain had to be preserved. “[Recently] he returned to the mountain under different circumstances. He joined other Tonkawa leaders to celebrate the tribe buying back the mountain and land surrounding it.
Indian community making final touches on homes made of hempcrete
The Lower Sioux Indian Community has rapidly developed their Industrial Hemp Program since the federal government removed the production of hemp and hemp seeds from the DEA’s schedule of Controlled Substances and authorized its use in the 2018 Farm Bill. The tribe’s Industrial Hemp Construction Project, as of February 15, 2024, was putting the finishing touches on a couple of hemp housing projects. One, a duplex for temporary housing and the other a 4-bedroom hempcrete house. The project also constructed a house out of pre-fabricated panels made of hempcrete. A North Dakota man helped with that project and currently is the only person in the US  making manufactured panels to sell. The tribe plans to do the same, in hopes that other tribes will want to begin building with hempcrete.
Tribes overwhelmingly reject major rare earth and heavy metals refinery
The Kiowa, Comanche and Apache tribes in Southwest Oklahoma have all passed resolutions in opposition to the United States’ first-ever major nickel, cobalt and manganese refinery near Lawton. Members of the Caddo and Delaware tribes are also rallying their tribal officials to declare their opposition to the facility. On February 10, 2024, Westwin Resistance, a grassroots group formed to oppose the inaugural facility, gathered at the site for a sunrise ceremony led by members of the local Indigenous communities. The service attended by concerned community members of all backgrounds and generations allowed them to gather in prayer as a way to peacefully oppose the refinery. With the Wichita Mountains, sacred to the area tribes, in the background they were able to shut down construction while they gathered. Click here to watch a recording of a webinar presentation produced by the organizers of the  Westwin Resistance

Chinook Indian Nation closer to regaining federal status
In the Northwest, the Chinook Indian Nation is closer to regaining its status as a federally recognized tribal nation following a landmark decision reaffirming its members as the rightful heirs of a settlement awarded to the Lower Chinook and Clatsop peoples in 1970 for lands stolen from them in the 1800s. But, the tribe’s quarterly trust fund distributions were halted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2011 on the grounds that the Chinook Indian Nation was no longer a federally recognized tribe. The tribe said its federal recognition was arbitrarily rescinded in 2001. 
Walter Bresette recognized for protecting fish, building bridges
Walt Bresette, Red Cliff Ojibwe, WI was a Great Lakes Regional rep of IEN, and helped in an attempt to form a regional arm of IEN (in the 1990’s).  He passed on Feb 21, 1999. This year, April 17, the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in Stevens Point will posthumously induct Walter Bresette. In this region he was well known as a treaty rights activist and Walleye Warrior and organized support on the Ojibwe fishing rights issues.
At the same time, mining companies were trying to open large metallic sulfide mines in the north. Walt presented treaty rights as a legal obstacle to mines that would contaminate fishing streams. He advocated a toxic-free zone in treaty-ceded territory, and a Seventh Generation Amendment to protect air and water as common property. Walt predicted that white northerners would realize that environmental threats and state mismanagement of fisheries are “more of a threat to their lifestyle than Indians who go out and spear fish. I think, in fact, we have more things in common with the anti-Indian people than we do with the state of Wisconsin.” Click here to read more.

Wounded Knee II – From Our Archives
IEN Honors the 50th anniversary of Wounded Knee ‘73 Occupation
The armed standoff at Wounded Knee laid a course for American Indian advocacy that continues to the present day. The political ideology during this time was not that of other liberation movements because it was at Wounded Knee that leaders exclaimed that our traditional spiritual ways are what provides us with guidance and direction. At the time this was unprecedented. Reviving the warrior spirit was also important, so much so that people were willing to give their lives for the struggle. During this time period, Indigenous resistance was focused on protecting lands and the Peoples connected to that land, and ultimately to take a stand against assimilation and fighting for cultural and spiritual revival. Click here to read more.
Wounded Knee Matriarchs’ Legacy Paves the Way for Future Indigenous Women Leadership
“… back in those days, the Red Power Movement meant we were unique, because we were land based, most of us. And even though we had people in the urban areas, we still knew where they were from. We were a movement of families. We weren’t separate,” she explained. “It wasn’t young people over here, and elders over here, and children over there. We were a movement of families because we were land based and we were Indigenous. It was a responsibility, you know, doing this for our issues, and land and water, and Mother Earth…if you had the time and the dedication and you felt the responsibility, you jumped right in it whether you were a man or woman, young, or old.” Click here to read more.

The Boldt Decision’s impact on Indigenous rights, 50 years later

The landmark 1974 case ordered Washington to uphold its treaties, affirm Indigenous salmon fishing rights and recognize Native nations’ sovereignty. Click here to read more.

The Boldt Decision’s impact on Indigenous rights, 50 years later The landmark 1974 case ordered Washington to uphold its treaties, affirm Indigenous salmon fishing rights and recognize Native nations’ sovereignty.

Billy Frank Jr., left, a Nisqually tribal elder who was arrested dozens of times while trying to assert his native fishing rights during the Fish Wars of the 1960s and ’70s, poses for a photo Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, with Ed Johnstone, of the Quinault tribe, at Frank’s Landing on the Nisqually River in Nisqually, Wash. They are holding a photo from the late 1960s of Frank and Don McCloud fishing on the river. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)[/caption]

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