by Sumit Dasgupta
Later this month, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), an advocacy organization focused on greater engagement within Native American communities on the issues of environmental and social justice, will convene its 16th Protecting Mother Earth Gathering. Hosted by members of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations in North Dakota, this event serves as a forum for representatives of indigenous communities to discuss how dirty energy is encroaching on protected territory and what native peoples can do to mobilize against these forces.
Historically, Native Americans have represented a traditionally underserved population in America. While environmental and economic issues of national relevance often disproportionately impact Native American communities, the challenges of these populations largely fail to garner national attention.
This is especially true regarding threats posed by oil exploration to natural landscapes and public health. Over 350 wells are currently operating on reservations across what is known as the Bakken formation--a subsurface rock unit extending through parts of Montana, North Dakota, and Canada, and America's largest contiguous oil field to date. With thousands of wells projected for operation next year in just the Mandaree segment of North Dakota, the known risks posed by pipeline failures and fracking to both the environment and public health are particularly relevant to the state's Native American population.
Organizers of the four-day event plan to confront the implications of ongoing oil drilling activities and address other topics such as global climate change policy and the green economy. Information regarding event registration as well as IEN is available on the IEN website.
Photo credit: Ben Powless