As we mark Labor Day in the United States and the 27th anniversary of our organization’s founding, we especially take time today to recognize September 5th as the International Day of Indigenous Women. As transnational, women of color we in AF3IRM have witnessed our indigenous sisters and ancestors’ resistance against imperialism’s attacks on their lives, their sovereignty, and the land. Indigenous women across the globe, from Ecuador to Canada, to the Philippines and New Zealand, to Honduras and the United States, have demonstrated time and time again the connections between the land and the survival of our communities and protection of our collective futures in the face of violence.
Governments, including the United States and Canada, and their multinational corporate cronies have stolen land, ravished communities, and consistently ignored treaties with indigenous peoples. There is a continued encroachment on indigenous rights, human rights and ignorance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We see it now with the Dakota Access Pipeline as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies are being attacked as they engage in protest against the $3.8 billion oil pipeline project in North Dakota. It is one of the glaring, yet largely ignored, consequences of trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that favor multinational corporations and imperialist countries. It is in the displacement of peoples and the forced flooding in areas like Panama of indigenous communities and sites from the construction of hydroelectric dams. It is found in the disproportionate number of indigenous people found in the welfare system, prisons, and those trafficked.
Furthermore, governments and corporations have been complicit in the systematic murder, rape, and sexual slavery of indigenous women and girls and other forms of violence against their communities. As the UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz has stated, “You cannot delink the fight of indigenous people for their lands, territories and resources from the violence that’s committed against indigenous women (and men), especially if this is a violence that is perpetrated by state authorities or by corporate security.” We witnessed it with the orchestrated assassination of Berta Cáceres, a mass leader who fought against the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric project in Honduras. There is the case brought forth by Margarita Caal Caal against the gang rape and violence in Guatemala connected to the multinational Canadian mining corporation Hudbay Mineral. Instances of rape and trafficking have been reported near mining and drilling sites and by the companies’ security forces in multiple countries. It is clear that the rape and pillage of the land is tied to the exploitation of and violence against indigenous women.
But we know that victories can be achieved. Last year, AF3IRM chapters in the United States joined Native Hawaiians and their allies to successfully protest corporate ventures on Native land at Mauna Kea. Earlier this year in Guatemala, the court found former members of the military were guilty of crimes against humanity for the rape, sexual slavery, and murder of the indigenous women in Sepur Zarco during the 1980’s. This was especially significant in that sexual violence against women was declared as a weapon of war. Indigenous women, such as Melanie Mark in British Columbia and Linda Burney of Australia, are being elected into office, becoming the first indigenous women in their respective legislative houses to do so. Just this month, Canada officially began its inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and are finally taking steps to address this pressing issue.
Berta Cáceres once asserted that “Mother Earth – militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated – demands that we take action.” We celebrate indigenous women’s resistance today not just for what has been won – but because we know that indigenous women will continue to fight for their sisters, their communities, and their land. Even now there are the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society protesting the Site C dam in British Columbia, Canada. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe fighting in North Dakota and the rising number of those joining the resistance against the pipeline project. There were the hundreds of indigenous women and allies who gathered in Ecuador to celebrate International Women’s Day earlier this year and to march for climate justice, especially for the Amazon. The Idle No More movement, founded by three First Nations women and an ally, has fought for indigenous sovereignty and to protect the land and earth. Generations of indigenous women have demanded justice and work to protect not just the land and water, but also languages and culture.
We draw strength from these acts of courage and power and we too renew our ongoing commitment to defeat the violence against indigenous communities, their cultures, and the land. Our New York chapter holds an annual commemoration of the missing, murdered and trafficked women and supports Idle No More. Our AF3IRM Hawaii chapter also has an indigenous focus and often does work related to water and land use. We are currently in the midst of the #NoDAPL Global Weeks of Action and we urge all to support the struggles of indigenous communities worldwide. We cannot afford to ignore the connections between the fight for indigenous lands and resources and the violence against indigenous women and their communities.
We women are not free, unless all women, including our indigenous sisters, are free.
Support the fight against the privatization of natural resources!
Defeat governments and corporations that put profits over people and the earth!
Recognize the rights and sovereignty of indigenous communities!
Value the lives and resistance of indigenous women!