The fight in Atlanta over Cop City, a massive police training facility, has turned into ground zero for overlapping crises facing our country: the climate emergency, vast political and economic inequality, ever-militarizing police forces and systemic racism. If we want a democracy healthy enough to solve these crises, it’s worth paying attention to what is happening in the South River Forest. On May 31, in a disturbing move shortly before Atlanta’s City Council approved more funding for the facility, Georgia law enforcement arrested three members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which provides activists with legal support and bail money.
Few people outside of Atlanta knew about the police training facility nicknamed “Cop City” when plans were approved in 2021, but all that changed in January when Manual Esteban Páez Terán, known as “Tortuguita,” was murdered by police. Their death launched a torrent of news coverage, including an article by NBC stating that police had never killed an environmental activist in the U.S. before Tortuguita. That may be true, but the U.S. has long been complicit in the death of activists abroad through its involvement in resource extraction and training police and military personnel. One such country is Honduras, which had the highest number of killings of land defenders per capita in the world in 2019.
On the side of the road just past a bridge that crosses over the Canadian National Railway tracks in New Hazelton, B.C., sits a small tent structure. Inside, pensively warming his hands over a fire on a cold January day, sits Chief Spookw, hereditary chief of the Lax Gibuu (Wolf Clan) of the Gitxsan Nation. This is Lax Gibuu territory — ancient, unceded. The tent is symbolic, an assertion of Gitxsan sovereignty in the face of CN encroachment that started over a century ago when the rail line was built. The Gitxsan have never given up their rights to the land, but the colonizing governments claimed it for their own anyway. “They have not paid any rent for the use of that land in 120 years,” says Spookw, his voice thick with conviction.
Indigenous Guardians across the country are managing lands and waters, protecting important animals like salmon and caribou and ensuring development occurs responsibly. We are caring for lands and waters we love on behalf of our Nations. This work is good for the land, and it’s good for people too. Guardians programs provide local jobs rooted in culture and connections between youth and Elders. They transform people’s lives and strengthen our communities. Investment in Indigenous-led conservation helps create these positive results—and with more investment we can expand them. Canada can look to Australia for a model of the proven benefits of long-term support.
Toronto - Months after a group of Haudenosaunee people set up camp on a construction site near Caledonia, Ontario, a provincial court granted Haldimand County an order permanently forbidding people from “interfering” with any public road. A lawyer for the county argued that the injunction was the “only remedy” to keep roads open in the event of future blockades over disputed land. “I kind of jokingly—but not jokingly—say, if you get a flat tire and are impeding traffic with that flat tire in any kind of way, you are now breaching that injunction,” Skyler Williams, a spokesperson for the 1492 Land Back Lane camp, said in a recent phone interview.
While the United States shudders in the shambles of another election year, whether from a collective sigh of relief or fear of what’s to come, a different system of governance blooms in a swath of woodlands jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. This sandy shoreline now part of what is called Long Island has always been home to the Shinnecock people. A group of Shinnecock women, organized as the Warriors of the Sunrise, are called to rise up in the face of invasive settlement. This is not their first battle. Members of the Shinnecock Nation know of a time before there was a Southampton
Vancouver, BC - A group of Indigenous land defenders have taken over the intersection of East Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver, blocking one of the access routes to the Port of Vancouver. About 75 people first gathered at Grandview Park as part of a national week of action promoted by Indigenous leaders hoping to call attention to a number of issues including climate change and systemic racism. “This is what we have to do. We can’t sit back anymore and watch our Indigenous people being treated the way they’re being treated from coast to coast,” said Will George, of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
About a hundred years ago, in 1927, when First Nation peoples were increasingly organizing land claims, the federal government amended the Indian Act to make it illegal for anyone to fundraise for First Nation peoples’ legal representation. It also made it illegal for any litigator to represent any First Nation person in a judicial proceeding. The penalty for such activity was a fine and/or imprisonment. As Haudenosaunee people continue to fight the colonial theft of land along the Grand River, the government still criminalizes our resistance.
Six Nations, Ontario - An argument between police and land defenders erupted in violence Thursday when officers tried to arrest someone outside a protest camp on Haudenosaunee territory. Witnesses say police fired at least six rubber bullets and tasered a young man after someone threw a rock at their cruiser. In the ensuing chaos, Ontario Provincial Police fell back to a reinforced position about 500 metres from the camp’s back entrance. “I was hit right in the fucking back,” said one young man, who did not want to be identified.
Canada - Expect to work 24/7 on-site. There are no benefits, no days off, and shelter is not provided. You will likely face threats, violence, criminalization, and arrest. So, why are some of the most passionate, informed, brilliant, and resourceful people in Canada dedicating themselves to work that is insecure, dangerous, and unpaid? Indigenous cultures are distinct but we share values of community, holistic understandings of all life, and a deep connection to the land and water. We know that colonial definitions of livelihood are incomplete and that our role is to live in harmony with the land that sustains us.
Hundreds of people demonstrated outside of the office of the Ontario ministry of Indigenous affairs in Toronto on Saturday to show support for members of Six Nations of the Grand River arrested in a land dispute. Demonstrators carried placards and a large banner that read: "Land Back." The gathering near Bloor Street East and Church Street was in support of a group that calls itself the Six Nations Land Defenders. "Land Back" was painted in red capital letters on the street near the office with messages in chalk surrounding the words.
On August 20, the land defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane tweeted: “We call on our allies to continue to amplify our demand for peace and safety.” These Six Nations land defenders began a re-occupation of their territory on July 19 to uphold their right to free, prior and informed consent and in opposition to the construction of the McKenzie Meadows housing development on unceded lands near the city of Caledonia in the province of Ontario in central Canada. The 1492 Land Back Lane tweet further notes: “We fear that instead of engaging with us in good faith, [settler politicians including Ontario Premier Doug Ford] have instead chosen to vilify us.
Much of what has been written about Lenca/Honduran activist Berta Cáceres has focused on her identifications as an Indigenous woman and as an environmentalist. While neither is false, those two facts alone paint an anemic picture of Berta’s militancy, and that of COPINH (the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras). While she strategically organized alongside her fellow Lencas and other feminists, her struggle was not rooted in identity per se, but in her analysis of the legacies of colonial and capitalist violence.
The year 2019 was the most dangerous on record for environmental activists, a new report says. Every day around the world, people stand up to companies exploiting land for profit, felling trees, damming and polluting waterways, displacing ancestral homes and destroying wildlife habitats. Every week, an average of four of these defenders are killed. The Global Witness Defending Tomorrow report, released Tuesday, counted 212 people killed last year for their efforts to protect the Earth from the destructive effects of development for oil and gas, mineral extraction, agriculture, logging and other practices.