As three Native women Water Protectors prepared for trial next week in Aitkin County, Judge Leslie Metzen dismissed all remaining criminal charges against Winona LaDuke, Tania Aubid and Dawn Goodwin late Thursday afternoon, September 14, 2023. The nearly three-year-old charges stemmed from a peaceful and prayerful gathering on the banks of the Mississippi River on ceded Anishinaabe land as Enbridge began construction of its Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Joined by several dozen other Water Protectors, the three women wore ceremonial jingle dresses, and sang, danced, and prayed for the water as heavy construction equipment tore into the earth.
When Mylene Vialard followed her 21-year-old daughter across the US to join the thousands of the resistance by Water Protectors led by Indigenous women at Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, her aim was clear: to help make change, not just for the Indigenous people whose treaty rights, lifeways, and bodies have been violated, but for everyone. What she didn’t know was how much the experience would change her. That was two years ago. Today, up to 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil (bitumen), a particularly resource-intensive and harmful form of crude petroleum, gush from Alberta to Wisconsin through the completed pipeline, and the Boulder-based activist is one of several activists around the US who face felony charges in northern Minnesota’s Aitkin County. Vialard’s trial is the week of August 28.
On August 15-17, MKW Co-conveners and partners will convene the Mni Ki Wakan (Water is Sacred) Summit, themed, “Indigenous Water Justice, Global Collaboration, & Dismantling Water Colonialism,” occurring in Rapid City, South Dakota, United States (mnikiwakan.org). The MKW Summit will bring together Indigenous Peoples, youth, and Indigenous-led environmental water organizations. The MKW Summit is a pillar of the Indigenous Water Decade that was first announced in 2016 at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). Since then, the MKW team has engaged in local/transnational partnerships, and initiatives, providing Indigenous water interventions at the UNPFII and the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland.
According to the March 5, 2023 Honolulu Star Advertiser article, titled “Military spending act stirs defueling concerns,” the DNAA REQUIRES, before defueling of the Red Hill jet fuel tanks, a certification from DOD that closing Red Hill will not affect Indo-Pacific military operations. At this point, 4 months after the passage of the NDAA and until the March 5 Star Advertiser article, despite intense public interest in the defueling and closing of the Red Hill facilities, neither Senator Hirono, Senator Brian Schatz nor Representative Case mentioned the certification requirement in their press releases about the $1 billion for the defueling and closure of Red Hill and $800 million for other military infrastructure upgrades in Hawaii passed in the NDAA for 2023.
Toledo, Ohio (WTVG) - The Toledo Lucas County Port Authority board has approved a $400 million bond for a salmon fishing facility in Williams County, but many locals are not happy with the decision. A group of advocates attended a Port Authority board meeting Thursday morning to talk about how they believe this facility could harm drinking water. The AquaBounty facility will be allowed to take more than five million gallons of water per day out of the Michindoh Aquifer, a large freshwater source. The water will then be dumped back into the St. Joseph River. Those two sources provide drinking water for thousands of people. Sherry Fleming is the chair person of the Williams County Alliance and says this is a huge concern for her community. “Fresh water is such a critical, essential resource for survival for all life,” says Fleming.
Puʻuloa, Hawaiʻi – Hundreds of people took to the streets today in a “Walk for Wai,” marching from Keʻehi Lagoon Beach Park to the local Navy Facilities Engineering Systems Command Headquarters, in support of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (HBWS). For years, the HBWS had requested transparency, accountability and immediate action to prevent any further contamination of the island of Oʻahu’s EPA Region IX Sole-Source Aquifer from the U.S. Navy’s WWII-era Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. In a live press conference responding to the November 29, 2022 spill of 1,300 gallons of extremely toxic aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) concentrate at the facility, the HBWS’ Chief Engineer Ernest Lau broke down in tears – and declared that the agency’s requests had now become demands.
One can hardly finish an article about Hawaii’s Red Hill jet fuel disaster before another dangerous incident happens. While I was completing an article concerning the first anniversary of the November 2021 massive jet fuel leak of over 19,000 gallons of jet fuel into the drinking water well that served 93,000 military and civilian families, on November 29, 2022, at least 1,300 gallons of the extremely toxic fire suppressant concentrate known as Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) leaked out of an “air release valve” installed by the contractor Kinetix onto the tunnel floor of the Red Hill Underground Jet Fuel Storage Tanks complex entrance and flowed 40 feet out of the tunnel into the soil. Kinetix workers reportedly were performing maintenance on the system when the leak occurred.
Puʻuloa, Hawaiʻi – On the anniversary of the 19,000 gallon fuel spill that led to the poisoning of Oʻahu's sole source aquifer and thousands of families, water protectors from across the island presented an "eviction notice" to Navy leaders for numerous Navy and Department of Defense actions that have continually threatened and harmed the lands, waters, and people of of Hawaiʻi - including the Navy’s ongoing refusal to properly address the existential threat posed by the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. "We aren't dumb. We aren't sheep. We know when we are just being fed lines by military officials in the hopes of keeping us quiet. We let them do that to us for too long, and look at what we've got. Those days are over, maybe forever," stated Kainoa Azama, of the Oʻahu Water Protectors.
On October 27, Wet’suwet’en water protector Eve Saint spoke at a protest outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Toronto as the London, Ontario-based Ivey Business School presented RBC CEO Dave McKay with their Ivey Business Leader award. Ivey notes: “More than 400 guests, including some of Canada’s most distinguished business leaders, attended the formal dinner at The Ritz-Carlton. The award honours individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of business in Canada, and demonstrated leadership in both business and their communities.” The day before the award ceremony RBC released its 2030 emission reduction targets. McKay claimed: “RBC is committed to helping build a cleaner future.” But Saint said of McKay: “You are not a climate leader, you are a leader in genocide.
Puʻuloa, Oʻahu – Environmental groups along with the Honolulu Board of Water Supply today commemorated the anniversary of a reported whistleblower revelation that Navy officials failed to disclose a months-long active fuel leak in Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor). Standing outside of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial Visitor Center, dressed in formal funeral attire and wearing black armbands, participants reflected on what they described as “one year of ʻimplausible deniability’” surrounding the Red Hill water crisis, and the impacts that a lack of transparency and truth has had on the people and island of Oʻahu, as well as on the legacies of Puʻuloa and Kapūkakī. The group also unveiled petitions with hundreds of “wet” signatures from local residents demanding that the Navy provide medical support and alternative water sources for those still reporting health and water contamination issues; invest additional resources to ensure the defueling of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility within a matter of months, not years; and engage with the public to respond to community questions and concerns on a monthly basis.
Honolulu - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be in Hawaii through the week and plans to meet Rear Admiral John Wade, the commander in charge of defueling the Red Hill underground fuel tanks. So far, there are no scheduled plans to meet with families. Families who were sickened by the spill are demanding immediate help. The protest over Red Hill goes beyond defueling the tanks. Ten months after the spills, families who were sickened after drinking fuel-contaminated water say their physical and neurological illnesses aren’t going away. “Real people are experiencing real symptoms,” said Army Major Amanda Feindt during a protest last week in the nation’s capital. Ariana Wyatt fears for her daughter, Indy. “I would love to tell you sheʻs doing a lot better, but thatʻs just not the truth,” said Wyatt.
Kauai, Hawaii - Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff arrived on Kauai for a vacation away from bustle of Washington. As their motorcade pulled up near the Kalihiwai Ridge home where the second couple are staying, they were met with people holding 'Shut Down Red Hill' signs. Some members of the Oahu Water Protectors made the trip to Kauai to meet the motorcade. While they said 'aloha' to welcome the Vice President on her trip, they also wanted to use the opportunity to put the issue on her radar. "To stand here and know that she's just 100 feet away from us I think it's important because we can't fly to DC but DC is here, so it's an opportunity for us to send a message to DC ," says Healani Sonoda-Pale.
Native nations and citizen watchdogs were prepared to take action against the permitting, because this is not the first time the federal agency has moved to allow the renewal of large-scale mining at these headwaters of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Four toxic Superfund sites are the result of water pollution from the mining over the past 70 years. Two generations of Lakota and settler descendants have worked across and through cultural differences to prevent any more of the same. Taxpayers already are footing the bill for the cleanup of hazardous heavy metals used in modern mining: cyanide, arsenic, chromium III and VI, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, silver, thallium, and zinc. About $100 million of public money has been spent on runoff at just one of the sites, which generates approximately 95 million gallons of poisonous acid rock drainage a year.
In Central America, as in many other parts of the world today, communities are being thrust into life and death struggles up against powerful interests to ensure clean water and health for their future generations. This is often the case where mining companies seek to dig up gold, silver, iron ore or other metals and minerals, disrupting or destroying precious water supplies in the process, and leaving behind massive quantities of toxic waste on the land. With national and international laws designed to privilege such harmful activities in the name of so-called development and progress, it is vital to celebrate the milestones of people fighting against all odds to protect their lives and lands from such threats.
Two lawsuits filed on February 2, 2022 by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Department of Defense and the Department of Navy challenge the State of Hawaii’s emergency order to shut down and defuel the leaking 80-year-old jet fuel tanks. These lawsuits have created another public relations nightmare for the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense as residents of O’ahu have expressed their dismay and outrage to the continuing threat of jet fuel to their drinking water aquifer. In November 2021, the Red Hill tank system leaked jet fuel into the drinking water of 93,000 residents in military housing around Pearl Harbor Navy Base and Hickam Air Force base.