“A total halt to new Protected Areas”: campaigners issue Marseille Manifesto for the future of conservation

“A total halt to new Protected Areas”: campaigners issue Marseille Manifesto for the future of conservation

This story first appeared in Survival.

These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a tiger reserve. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead.

These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a tiger reserve. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead.
© Survival International


Participants in the world’s first Congress to decolonize conservation have released a manifesto calling for a total halt to new Protected Areas which exclude Indigenous and local communities.

The “Marseille Manifesto: a people’s manifesto for the future of conservation” has been released today by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists and experts who gathered for last month’s ground-breaking “Our Land Our Nature” congress.

They also demand:

– that governments “fully respect, protect and uphold Indigenous peoples’ land and forest rights, respect collective customary land and forest use by local communities, to ensure protection of that land in accordance with their wishes” as the primary means of protecting the world’s biodiversity

– “Governments and conservation organisations must acknowledge the huge toll that strictly protected conservation areas have taken on the lands, livelihoods and rights of many communities worldwide; they must make concrete plans for reparations of past wrongs, including through transferring control back to the historical and local guardians”

– “High income countries… must cease funding conservation programmes which destroy local people and livelihoods, including by failures of FPIC, irrespective of whether this is intentional or not.”

The manifesto calls for “a conservation model that fights against the real causes of environmental destruction and is prepared to tackle those most responsible: overconsumption and exploitation of resources led by the Global North and its corporations.”

The demand for a radical change to the current model of conservation has grown louder in recent months. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment released a strongly-worded policy brief in August, arguing that achieving environmental goals “demands a dramatic departure from ‘conservation as usual’.” His brief calls instead for a radically different, rights-based approach.

Many organizations and institutions, however, claim to endorse these calls while simultaneously promoting aggressive “fortress conservation” projects. The European Commission, for example, talks in its Biodiversity Strategy of “strengthen[ing] the links between biodiversity protection and human rights … and the role of indigenous peoples and local communities” – but continues to fund conservation projects in Africa that exclude them.

Likewise, 150 NGOs recently published an open letter calling on world leaders to put human rights at the centre of environmental policy – but the group included WWF, whose “secret war” of funding “vicious paramilitary forces” has been the subject of multiple media exposés and human rights investigations.

Fiore Longo, head of Survival’s Decolonize Conservation campaign, said today: “Most governments and NGOs these days are good at producing nice-sounding rhetoric about respecting Indigenous rights. But the same people are promoting a massive drive to create new Protected Areas on Indigenous lands as part of the 30×30 plan that constitutes the biggest land grab in world history.

“We can see the same pretence in calls for Nature-Based Solutions to climate change. These are really just a new spin on what used to be called carbon offsets. They’ll allow Indigenous lands to be bought and sold, in order to permit the world’s most polluting companies to carry on polluting.

“Only the full recognition of Indigenous peoples’ land ownership rights will prevent them from continuing to be the sacrificial victims of fortress conservation and Nature-Based Solutions. It’s also a key step in addressing the biodiversity and climate change crises.”

'Our Land, Our Nature'. The conservation industry has a dark side rooted in racism and colonialism that destroys nature and people.

‘Our Land, Our Nature’. The conservation industry has a dark side rooted in racism and colonialism that destroys nature and people.
© Survival
Brazil court upholds ban on missionaries trying to contact isolated Indigenous

Brazil court upholds ban on missionaries trying to contact isolated Indigenous

This story first appeared in Mongabay.

by Fernanda Wenzel

  • Brazil’s highest court has upheld a ban on missionaries entering reserves that are home to isolated and recently contacted Indigenous people during the pandemic.
  • The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Indigenous organizations against a law passed in July 2020 that allowed missionaries to remain inside these reserves despite the pandemic, in violation of Brazil’s official policy in place since 1987.
  • According to Indigenous organizations, it’s crucial to reaffirm the non-contact policy under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro that has pushed to “integrate” Indigenous people into society, and has been cozy with the evangelical movement.
  • Besides the risk of disease spread, the presence of missionaries in these reserves undermines traditional cultures and social cohesion, and compels these nomadic communities to settle down, making the land more vulnerable to invasions by illegal ranchers and loggers, activists say.

Brazil’s highest court has upheld a ban on missionary activity inside reserves that are home to isolated or recently contacted Indigenous people, in a bid to protect the communities against COVID-19.

Although the country’s official indigenist policy toward these groups since 1987 has been to not engage in any contact, regardless of whether there’s a pandemic, a federal law passed in July 2020 allows religious missionaries to remain inside these reserves. This triggered a lawsuit by Indigenous and political organizations, which the Supreme Federal Court (STF) has now ruled in favor of.

The 2020 law attempted to “legitimize something that is already forbidden,” said Carolina Ribeiro Santana, a lawyer for the Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples (OPI), one of the co-authors of the lawsuit. “As we are under an anti-Indigenous government, it is important to have a decision which reassures the Indigenous policy.”

OPI authored the lawsuit along with the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib) — the country’s largest Indigenous organization — and the Workers Party (PT). Justice Luís Roberto Barroso issued the court’s ruling on Sept. 24.

Uncontacted Indigenous community in the Brazilian state of Acre. Although the country’s official indigenist policy toward these groups has been to not engage in any contact, regardless of whether there’s a pandemic, a federal law passed in July 2020 allows religious missionaries to remain inside these reserves. Image by Gleilson Miranda / Government of Acre via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Last year, the court had already forbidden the entry of outsiders into these areas while hearing another case where Indigenous organizations urged the federal government to implement measures, including imposing sanitary barriers, to protect the Indigenous population from COVID-19. “In the current situation, where there is an ongoing pandemic, the peoples in isolation and recent contact are the most exposed to the risk of contagion and extinction,” Barroso said in that earlier ruling.

But threats against uncontacted Indigenous groups have escalated under the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called for Indigenous people to be “integrated into society.” Bolsonaro’s hostility toward Indigenous people is no secret; last year, in his weekly live transmission on social media, he declared that, “more and more, the Indigenous is a human being just like us.”

At the same time, Bolsonaro is hugely popular with Brazil’s evangelicals, who are credited with helping him win the 2018 election. (His middle name translates to “Messiah.”) Once in office, he appointed evangelical leaders to key posts in his administration, including Ricardo Lopes Dias, who, until November 2020, headed the department responsible for protecting isolated and recently contacted communities at Funai, the Indigenous affairs agency. Dias was a pastor with the New Tribes Mission, an evangelical group notorious for reportedly spreading disease among the Zo’é people living in northern Pará state. More than a third of the Zo’é population subsequently died. Another top official, Damares Alves, the minister for women, family and human rights, is also reportedly linked to missionary groups, according to BBC News Brasil.

“These people choose isolation,” anthropologist Aparecida Vilaça, from the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told Mongabay in a phone interview. “What the state has to do is to not let anyone get in.”

One of the reasons for this isolation, according to Indigenous organizations, is precisely the trauma of almost being exterminated by the diseases brought by non-Indigenous people, like influenza, measles and malaria; Indigenous people, especially isolated ones, don’t have immunity to many of these pathogens.

But the threat of disease isn’t the only one introduced by missionaries, even to non-isolated groups. According to lawyer Eliésio Marubo, from Vale do Javari reserve in northern Amazonas state, missionaries undermine the social cohesion of the community by favoring the leaders who support them.

“The culture of our people is also weakened because certain practices are forbidden [by the missionaries], like traditional medicine,” Eliésio Marubo said. “The relationship with the territory also changes. Before, we used to move around a lot, but the missionaries want us to stay in one place only.”

Vale do Javari is home to the largest number of isolated Indigenous people in the world: 10 out of the 28 confirmed groups of isolated people in Brazil. The reserve is also home to non-isolated Indigenous groups, like the Marubo.

“It is a cultural destruction,” anthropologist Aparecida Vilaça said of the missions’ presence in Indigenous reserves. Vilaça witnessed the effects of missionary groups on an Indigenous community in Rondônia, also in the Amazon region. “They do a very deep process of humiliation of the traditional practices, by saying their dances and beliefs are things of the devil,” she said.

According to Vilaça, these changes in the traditional way of life make the Indigenous people more vulnerable to several economic interests. “The missionaries lead to the settling of all the community in the same place, releasing land to farmers and loggers. We can’t forget that these lands are very coveted,” she said.

Vilaça said the desire to convert Indigenous groups started with the colonization of Brazil, by the Catholic Church, and is now led by evangelical groups, some of which have deep pockets.

Rejection of “consentement” thesis

As the lawyer for Univaja, the Union of Indigenous People of Vale do Javari, Eliésio Marubo went to court last year against Andrew Tonkin, a U.S. evangelical Baptist missionary who was planning to travel to the reserve amid the pandemic to contact isolated Indigenous groups.

“Missionaries have been harassing us for 60 years,” he said. “They have helicopters, airplanes and they fly from here to the United States.”

Besides granting Univaja’s request to ban Tonkin’s entry, a federal court also ordered the expulsion of missionaries still inside the territory. Despite the victory, the missionaries are still lurking, Eliésio Marubo said. “They remain on the borders of the reserve, trying to co-opt people,” he told Mongabay over the phone.

Uncontacted Indigenous group in the Brazilian state of Acre. Evangelical missionaries use several strategies to approach Indigenous communities, including giving gifts of axes and knives. They also co-opt some Indigenous leaders, provoking social conflicts, and tell the Indigenous people their dances and beliefs are evil. Image by Gleilson Miranda / Government of Acre via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0).

In a setback for the Indigenous groups, Justice Barroso denied their request to remove the missionaries already inside the reserves. Besides creating a risk of contagion, Barroso said — since evicting them could “require third parties to enter such areas” — it was not clear that isolated groups had not consented to their presence.

“How can you give consent for something that you have no idea what it is? To people who don’t even speak their language?” Vilaça said. She added that missionaries use several strategies to win over the isolated people. “They offer axes, knives, and other benefits to those who join them.”

In their argument to the STF, the Indigenous groups noted that the way isolated communities express their will is different from the rest of society. “Our society gives prevalence to speech, to writing, and these people are talking to us in a different way. When they run away or attack an approaching person, it is a way of saying no,” Santana said.

Barroso’s ruling is a precautionary measure, meaning the case will be subject to trial in the STF plenary. In a statement, the office of Brazil’s attorney general said it had been notified of the decision but will only manifest in the court. Funai didn’t reply to requests for comment.

The Problem

The Problem

This is an excerpt from the book Bright Green Lies, P. 1-7


“Once our authoritarian technics consolidates its powers, with the aid of its new forms of mass control, its panoply of tranquilizers and sedatives and aphrodisiacs, could democracy in any form survive? That question is absurd: Life itself will not survive, except what is funneled through the mechanical collective.”1

There is so little time and even less hope here, in the midst of ruin, at the end of the world. Every biome is in shreds. The green flesh of forests has been stripped to grim sand. The word water has been drained of meaning; the Athabascan River is essentially a planned toxic spill now, oozing from the open wound of the Alberta tar sands. When birds fly over it, they drop dead from the poison. No one believes us when we say that, but it’s true. The Appalachian Mountains are being blown to bits, their dense life of deciduous forests, including their human communities, reduced to a disposal problem called “overburden,” a word that should be considered hate speech: Living creatures—mountain laurels, wood thrush fledglings, somebody’s grandchildren—are not objects to be tossed into gullies. If there is no poetry after Auschwitz, there is no grammar after mountaintop removal. As above, so below. Coral reefs are crumbling under the acid assault of carbon. And the world’s grasslands have been sliced to ribbons, literally, with steel blades fed by fossil fuel. The hunger of those blades would be endless but for the fact that the planet is a bounded sphere: There are no continents left to eat. Every year the average American farm uses the energy equivalent of three to four tons of TNT per acre. And oil burns so easily, once every possibility for self-sustaining cultures has been destroyed. Even the memory of nature is gone, metaphrastic now, something between prehistory and a fairy tale. All that’s left is carbon, accruing into a nightmare from which dawn will not save us. Climate change slipped into climate chaos, which has become a whispered climate holocaust. At least the humans whisper. And the animals? During the 2011 Texas drought, deer abandoned their fawns for lack of milk. That is not a grief that whispers. For living beings like Labrador ducks, Javan rhinos, and Xerces blue butterflies, there is the long silence of extinction.

We have a lot of numbers. They keep us sane, providing a kind of gallows’ comfort against the intransigent sadism of power: We know the world is being murdered, despite the mass denial. The numbers are real. The numbers don’t lie. The species shrink, their extinctions swell, and all their names are other words for kin: bison, wolves, black-footed ferrets. Before me (Lierre) is the text of a talk I’ve given. The original version contains this sentence: “Another 120 species went extinct today.” The 120 is crossed clean through, with 150 written above it. But the 150 is also struck out, with 180 written above. The 180 in its turn has given way to 200. I stare at this progression with a sick sort of awe. How does my small, neat handwriting hold this horror? The numbers keep stacking up, I’m out of space in the margin, and life is running out of time.

Twelve thousand years ago, the war against the earth began. In nine places,2 people started to destroy the world by taking up agriculture. Understand what agriculture is: In blunt terms, you take a piece of land, clear every living thing off it—ultimately, down to the bacteria—and then plant it for human use. Make no mistake: Agriculture is biotic cleansing. That’s not agriculture on a bad day, or agriculture done poorly. That’s what agriculture actually is: the extirpation of living communities for a monocrop for and of humans. There were perhaps five million humans living on earth on the day this started—from this day to the ending of the world, indeed—and there are now well over seven billion. The end is written into the beginning. As earth and space sciences scholar David R. Montgomery points out, agricultural societies “last 800 to 2,000 years … until the soil gives out.”3 Fossil fuel has been a vast accelerant to both the extirpation and the monocrop—the human population has quadrupled under the swell of surplus created by the Green Revolution—but it can only be temporary. Finite quantities have a nasty habit of running out. The name for this diminishment is drawdown, and agriculture is in essence a slow bleed-out of soil, species, biomes, and ultimately the process of life itself. Vertebrate evolution has come to a halt for lack of habitat, with habitat taken by force and kept by force: Iowa alone uses the energy equivalent of 4,000 Nagasaki bombs every year. Agriculture is the original scorched-earth policy, which is why both author and permaculturist Toby Hemenway and environmental writer Richard Manning have written the same sentence: “Sustainable agriculture is an oxymoron.” To quote Manning at length: “No biologist, or anyone else for that matter, could design a system of regulations that would make agriculture sustainable. Sustainable agriculture is an oxymoron. It mostly relies on an unnatural system of annual grasses grown in a mono- culture, a system that nature does not sustain or even recognize as a natural system. We sustain it with plows, petrochemicals, fences, and subsidies, because there is no other way to sustain it.”4

Agriculture is what creates the human pattern called civilization. Civilization is not the same as culture—all humans create culture, which can be defined as the customs, beliefs, arts, cuisine, social organization, and ways of knowing and relating to each other, the land, and the divine within a specific group of people. Civilization is a specific way of life: people living in cities, with cities defined as people living in numbers large enough to require the importation of resources. What that means is that they need more than the land can give. Food, water, and energy have to come from somewhere else. From that point forward, it doesn’t matter what lovely, peaceful values people hold in their hearts. The society is dependent on imperialism and genocide because no one willingly gives up their land, their water, their trees. But since the city has used up its own, it has to go out and get those from somewhere else. That’s the last 10,000 years in a few sentences. Over and over and over, the pattern is the same. There’s a bloated power center surrounded by conquered colonies, from which the center extracts what it wants, until eventually it collapses. The conjoined horrors of militarism and slavery begin with agriculture.

Agricultural societies end up militarized—and they always do—for three reasons. First, agriculture creates a surplus, and if it can be stored, it can be stolen, so, the surplus needs to be protected. The people who do that are called soldiers. Second, the drawdown inherent in this activity means that agriculturalists will always need more land, more soil, and more resources. They need an entire class of people whose job is war, whose job is taking land and resources by force—agriculture makes that possible as well as inevitable. Third, agriculture is backbreaking labor. For anyone to have leisure, they need slaves. By the year 1800, when the fossil fuel age began, three-quarters of the people on this planet were living in conditions of slavery, indenture, or serfdom.5 Force is the only way to get and keep that many people enslaved. We’ve largely forgotten this is because we’ve been using machines—which in turn use fossil fuel—to do that work for us instead of slaves. The symbiosis of technology and culture is what historian, sociologist, and philosopher of technology Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) called a technic. A social milieu creates specific technologies which in turn shape the culture. Mumford writes, “[A] new configuration of technical invention, scientific observation, and centralized political control … gave rise to the peculiar mode of life we may now identify, without eulogy, as civilization… The new authoritarian technology was not limited by village custom or human sentiment: its herculean feats of mechanical organization rested on ruthless physical coercion, forced labor and slavery, which brought into existence machines that were capable of exerting thousands of horsepower centuries before horses were harnessed or wheels invented. This centralized technics … created complex human machines composed of specialized, standardized, replaceable, interdependent parts—the work army, the military army, the bureaucracy. These work armies and military armies raised the ceiling of human achievement: the first in mass construction, the second in mass destruction, both on a scale hitherto inconceivable.”6

Technology is anything but neutral or passive in its effects: Ploughshares require armies of slaves to operate them and soldiers to protect them. The technic that is civilization has required weapons of conquest from the beginning. “Farming spread by genocide,” Richard Manning writes.7 The destruction of Cro-Magnon Europe—the culture that bequeathed us Lascaux, a collection of cave paintings in southwestern France—took farmer-soldiers from the Near East perhaps 300 years to accomplish. The only thing exchanged between the two cultures was violence. “All these artifacts are weapons,” writes archaeologist T. Douglas Price, with his colleagues, “and there is no reason to believe that they were exchanged in a nonviolent manner.”8

Weapons are tools that civilizations will make because civilization itself is a war. Its most basic material activity is a war against the living world, and as life is destroyed, the war must spread. The spread is not just geographic, though that is both inevitable and catastrophic, turning biotic communities into gutted colonies and sovereign people into slaves. Civilization penetrates the culture as well, because the weapons are not just a technology: no tool ever is. Technologies contain the transmutational force of a technic, creating a seamless suite of social institutions and corresponding ideologies. Those ideologies will either be authoritarian or democratic, hierarchical or egalitarian. Technics are never neutral. Or, as ecopsychology pioneer Chellis Glendinning writes with spare eloquence, “All technologies are political.”9


  1. Lewis Mumford, “Authoritarian and Democratic Technics,” Technology and Culture 5, no. 1 (Winter, 1964).
  2. There exists some debate as to how many places developed agriculture and civilizations. The best current guess seems to be nine: the Fertile Crescent; the Indian sub- continent; the Yangtze and Yellow River basins; the New Guinea Highlands; Central Mexico; Northern South America; sub-Saharan Africa; and eastern North America.
  3. David R. Montgomery, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007), 236.
  4. Richard Manning, Rewilding the West: Restoration in a Prairie Landscape (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 185.
  5. Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (Boston: Mariner Books, 2006), 2.
  6. Mumford op cit (Winter, 1964), 3.
  7. Richard Manning, Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization (New York: North Point Press, 2004), 45.
  8. T. Douglas Price, Anne Birgitte Gebauer, and Lawrence H. Keeley, “The Spread of Farming into Europe North of the Alps,” in Douglas T. Price and Anne Brigitte Gebauer, Last Hunters, First Farmers (Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 1995).
  9. Chellis Glendinning, “Notes toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto,” Utne Reader, March- April 1990, 50.
Settlers Have an Obligation to Defend Treaty Rights, Too

Settlers Have an Obligation to Defend Treaty Rights, Too

This article originally appeared in YES! Magazine.


Shanai Matteson, a 39-year-old White settler, sat in the stuffy overflow room watching the packed Public Utility Commission meeting, along with more than a hundred others, in St. Paul, Minnesota, in June 2018. Over several hours, she listened as dozens of people—Native elders, local landowners, and young people concerned about their futures—testified against the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, urging the commission to deny the project a key permit. She listened, too, as Enbridge workers, bused in by the company, voiced their support for the pipeline.

Matteson remembers the collective dismay and anger in the room as the five-person board approved Enbridge’s permit request. She also remembers what happened next: Tania Aubid, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, stood up and told the commissioners that they had just declared war on the Ojibwe people.

Outside of the conference hall, organizers held a rally. Matteson listened as Winona LaDuke, a member of the White Earth Nation and executive director of the nonprofit Honor the Earth, spoke alongside several youth interveners—teenagers who were suing to stop the pipeline in court. Listening to their words, Matteson was moved by their unwavering dedication―to the land, water, and climate, but also to upholding the treaty agreements, which were being violated by this pipeline project.

After the news conference, Matteson packed her two young children into the car. They drove for nearly three hours before reaching a part of the land where the Mississippi starts to widen into one of the nation’s most storied rivers. It was a place she knew well. Matteson’s family had lived in the area for five generations, ever since her great-great-grandfather, Amasa, settled a homestead and opened a small sawmill on 1855 Treaty land. She’d grown up in the nearby town of Palisade, Minnesota, population 150.

Here was where Enbridge planned to drill the Line 3 pipeline under the Mississippi.

Standing on the riverbank that night, Matteson made a pledge to do everything she could to uphold the treaties and to stop Line 3. “I remember that day, saying to myself ‘I am making a commitment to this fight,’ ” Matteson recalls.

Defending Treaty Rights: From the Salish Sea to Line 3

On July 25, a Lummi Nation-carved totem pole will pass through the Mississippi Headwaters, under which Enbridge plans to drill the Line 3 pipeline. It’s part of a 1,500-mile journey from the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest through numerous Indigenous sacred sites, including Bears Ears in the Southwest and Standing Rock in the Midwest, en route to Washington, D.C. The totem pole is intended to invite Native and non-Native people to connect with the idea of broken treaties and the ongoing efforts to honor them, especially when treaty rights come into conflict with extractive capitalism.

Putting a hand on the totem pole, as people are invited to do at each sacred site event stop, one can’t help but feel a sense of awe for the many stories, hopes, and prayers it carries—and to offer their own. The 24-foot pole, hauled on a trailer behind a pickup, bears images that tell stories of the present-day struggles faced by Indigenous communities—including the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, the crisis of children held in cages at the U.S.-Mexico border, and the work of language revitalization. One carving is a grandmother with seven tears, using culture to teach her granddaughter how to turn trauma into wisdom. The totem pole aims to serve as “a reminder of the promises that were made to the first peoples of this land and waters,” Lummi master carver Jewell James told The Washington Post.

These promises were made in the form of nation-to-nation treaty agreements, recognized in the U.S. Constitution as “the supreme law of the land.” For non-Native individuals residing in the U.S., treaty rights are still the legal mechanism giving people the right to live on ceded tribal land. Put another way, if settlers (like the two of us writing this piece) are not actively holding up their end of the deal, then they forfeit the right to be here.

In exchange, the U.S. government promised tribes services, such as health care, education, and housing—and in many cases, treaties reserved the right for Native people to hunt and fish within their traditional territory. Instead, the reality has been a history of genocidal massacres, forced displacement, brutal residential schools, the outlawing of language, religion, and culture, and broken treaty obligations. Only by confronting the context of the U.S.’s settler-colonial history can settlers begin to reckon with their personal identity as treaty people.

“Part of what’s so wonderful about the pole is how it invites people to learn about the treaty, and to learn about the true history of this country,” says Lummi tribal fisher and treaty advocate Ellie Kinley, co-founder of Sacred Sea, a Indigenous-led nonprofit whose mission is to defend Lummi sovereignty and treaty rights and promote Indigenous stewardship of the Salish Sea.

“Once you know the true history, you can learn from it, and become wise from it.”

“We Are All Treaty People”

On June 7, 2021, about 2,000 people attended Treaty People Gathering, a mass Line 3 protest in rural northern Minnesota. At one of two actions that happened that day, more than 1,000 people marched to a part of the Mississippi where the pipeline is slated to be drilled; at the other action, hundreds risked arrest (and more than 200 were arrested) shutting down an Enbridge work station for the day.

“We Are All Treaty People” was one of the gathering’s main rallying cries. They are words that Matteson has thought seriously about since that night at the Commission hearing.

In 2020, after two decades living and working in Minneapolis, Matteson moved her family back to Palisade. She quickly got involved with the Welcome Water Protector Center, a cultural camp supporting people standing with the Ojibwe opposing Line 3. She is now close friends with Tania Aubid, the founder of the camp and the Ojibwe woman who informed the PUC commissioners that Line 3 was an act of war upon her people. The women’s friendship has given them both the strength to do more. In early 2021, they embarked on a hunger strike together. To bring attention to the fight to stop the pipeline, Matteson went 21 days without food; Aubid went 38.

When asked why she moved with her two young children to the Welcome Water Protector Center, Matteson is clear that protecting the water and the climate were reasons, but so too was ensuring that her government upholds its side of the treaties.

“I’ve been reminded by so many Indigenous people that the treaties are not just a concern for Indigenous people,” she says, golden light falling between the trees at camp. “They were entered into by the U.S. government, and as citizens, we have a responsibility to ensure our government honors that law.”

Over the course of the 19th century, the Red Lake Nation, the White Earth Nation, and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe signed treaties with the U.S. government—treaties that granted rights to U.S. citizens and reserved rights for tribal members. In recent years, tribal attorneys have argued that Line 3 would infringe upon those treaty-protected rights, including the right to cultivate and harvest wild rice―manoomin in the Ojibwe language―which is regarded as a sacred species and is a vital source of sustenance for local tribal members. “It’s a perpetuation of cultural genocide,” founder of Line 3 resistance group, Giniw Collective, Tara Houska told The Guardian, describing the impact Line 3 would have on manoomin.

It has been a long road for the tribal attorneys, a road made more complicated by the fact that some Native-owned construction companies and two other Ojibwe nations support the pipeline. Most recently, on June 14, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled against the tribes, finding that Enbridge had appropriately demonstrated that there was a need for the pipeline. There are, however, reasons to believe the Tribes’ case will fare better in a case at federal court, where it is to be heard in the coming months. In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the favor of treaty rights in two high-profile cases.

But as the case makes its way slowly through the federal court system, the fight for treaty rights is playing out on its own timeline in the woods of rural Minnesota.

Before Line 3 was anywhere near the edge of the great Mississippi, Aubid and Winona LaDuke built a waaginogaaning, a traditional Ojibwe prayer lodge, on the banks of the river, in the exact spot where Line 3 was slated to be drilled under its waters. Earlier this year, in the depths of the Minnesota winter, Enbridge workers appeared on site, nailing “No Trespassing” signs to trees.

The workers informed Aubid and LaDuke that they were trespassing on Enbridge property.

“No, you’re trespassing,” Aubid replied.

When the workers returned with law enforcement, Aubid handed the police officer a copy of the 1855 Treaty Authority letter, informing them of her legal, treaty-protected right to practice her religion there. The police and the Enbridge workers left Aubid in her prayer lodge soon after, but nobody expected Enbridge to stay away for long.

They didn’t. In July 2021, Enbridge drilled under the river, despite Aubid, Matteson, LaDuke, and others wading into the river to try and stop them.

The prayer lodge still stands in the path of the pipeline, and dozens more people have joined the Welcome Water Protector Center as the fight against the pipeline is reaching a boiling point. Since December alone, nearly 600 people have been arrested for actions related to stopping the construction of Line 3 and tens of thousands more have marched, demanded that Biden intervene, and protested the banks funding the pipeline.

Aubid is clear on what she hopes will happen next. “We’d like more people to come here,” she says. “We’d like people to help us protect the lands, protect the waters, and to do what they can to uphold their side of the treaties.”

Later, as we walk beside the languorous waters of the Mississippi, Matteson reminds us of the importance of settlers upholding the treaties. “This isn’t history,” she says. “This is happening here. It is happening now.”

CORRECTION: This article was updated at 5:26p.m. on July 20,2021, to reflect the current state of the drilling. Read our corrections policy here.

Lithium Wars: The New Gold Rush

Lithium Wars: The New Gold Rush

In these brief series, Max Wilbert explores the #ThackerPass Litium Deposit in Humboldt Count, Nevada which will serve as a lithium clay mining development project  proposed by the Nevada government and federal agencies. This project will compromise the flora, fauna and streams of the area just for the sake of “clean” energy and profit.

By Max Wilbert

This is the first video dispatch from my trip to the area of two proposed lithium mines in Nevada. I’m working to build awareness of the threats these projects pose and resistance to them. I’ll have more to share next week.

This video comes from the top of a ridge directly to the east of the proposed Rhyolite Ridge open-pit lithium mine in Southern Nevada. After arriving by moonlight the night before, I scrambled up this rocky ridge in the dawn light to get an overview of the landscape. Everything that you see here is under threat for electric car batteries.

This is habitat for Tiehm’s buckwheat, cholla cactus, sagebrush, rabbitbrush, prairie falcon, desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, jackrabbit, ring-tailed cat, and literally hundreds of other species.

Is it worth destroying their home and their lives for electric cars?

This is the traditional territory of the Walker River Paiute, the Agai-Dicutta Numa, and other bands of the Northern Paiute.

What killed 14,000 critically endangered buckwheat plants at the site of a proposed lithium mine to supply critical minerals for the so-called “green” electric vehicle industry?

This video reports from Rhyolite Ridge in western Nevada, traditional territory of the Walker River Paiute, the Agai-Dicutta Numa, and other bands of the Northern Paiute.

Was it rodents, or was it vandalism? Climate catastrophe or eco-terrorism?

Benjamin R. Grady, the President of the Eriogonum Society, said in a letter that “As distasteful as it is to consider, intentional human action may have caused the demise of thousands of E. tiehmii individuals over the course of two months from July to September 2020. Having studied this genus since 2007, I have visited hundreds of different Eriogonum populations across the American West. Never once have I seen this type of directed small mammal attack at any of those sites. To me, the widespread damage to just E. tiehmii plants was remarkable. The timing of this attack is also suspicious. The threat of a large-scale lithium mine has recently thrust E. tiehmii into the spotlight. This species has been monitored since the early 1990’s and this type of widespread damage has not been documented. While on site on the 23rd of September, I did not notice any scat, with the exception of a few scattered lagomorph pellets. I carefully examined uprooted plants and no actual herbivory was noticed. The green to graying leaves were unchewed and intact. Eriogonum species likely offer little reward of water or nutrients at this time of year.”

Either way, this video is a crime-scene investigation from the middle of the proposed open-pit lithium mine at Rhyolite Ridge, in western Nevada on traditional territory of the Walker River Paiute, the Agai-Dicutta Numa, and other bands of the Northern Paiute.

We don’t know what happened to these plants, but it is clear that they deserve protection. Ioneer’s plan to build an open-pit lithium mine at this site must be resisted.

Reporting from #ThackerPass #Nevada – site of a massive proposed lithium mine. Nevada government and federal agencies have fast-tracked the sacrifice of this mountainside in favor of a $1.3 billion dollar mine that could produce tens of billions in profits. Meanwhile, local streams will be polluted, Lahontan cutthroat trout spawning grounds will be smothered under radioactive sediment, Pronghorn antelope migration routes blocked, Greater sage-grouse habitat blasted to nothing, local people will have to deal with acid rain, ancient cultural sites will be desecrated, and this quiet wilderness will be turned into an industrialized zone — unless the project is stopped.

To learn more about the Thacker pass, check out this article and this website. Watch more of Max’s videos here.