Hundreds turned out in the rain for a prayerful rally at historic Cooper Union in New York City to protest at Citibank’s annual shareholder meeting. The indigenous-led, ally-supported event sent a strong message to Citibank and its shareholders: Honor indigenous rights, and stop extractive energy investment now.
Citibank invested $521,808,456 in the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Citibank was also the main convener of the 17 banks that supplied the loan for DAPL. Citi is banking on pipeline infrastructure and keeping a stronghold on oil as a commodity by providing revolving credit to TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline. Citibank finances the companies behind all of the proposed Alberta oil sands pipelines, including Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain and Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement pipeline, all of which face significant indigenous and grassroots opposition.
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In a letter to its shareholders, Citibank said that they publicly support “United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other international frameworks in our Statement on Human Rights.” It is the 10th anniversary of the UN Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which requires, among other things, that indigenous people be consulted and cooperated with in good faith “in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources,” the Declaration reads.
“We are the Ramapough Lunaape Nation, descendants of the original people of Manhattan, and the elders of this land,” said Dwayne Perry, Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation. “We consider the injustices at Standing Rock and those who profit from them as injustices to all people, just as we see the building of dangerous and unnecessary oil pipelines as a threat to all waters and lands.”
While the rally was taking place outside, two young indigenous women Fancy Dancers, accompanied by a drummer, danced down the aisles of the meeting and onto the stage. They wore shawls that said, “If you build it,” and “We will come.”
A delegation of indigenous women—Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation, and Kandi Mossett, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations—addressed the CEO and Board of Directors during the question and answer period of the meeting. The women told Citibank and its shareholders that as indigenous people, their job was to protect the water, the land, the air, the people and the animals, and that Citibank had to divest and reinvest in a Just Transition. Citibank officials admitted to the delegates that they had made an error in backing the Dakota Access Pipeline and would not do so if they had it to do over again. The delegates reminded the Citibank officials that they had the opportunity to avoid the same mistake and refuse to fund the Keystone XL Pipeline. A banner was also unfurled from the third floor windows that said “Divest, Defund, Decolonize.”
Indigenous people and allies came together, bringing the energy of Standing Rock, to tell Citibank shareholders to end all investments in extractive energy. These investments violate treaty rights, destroy frontline communities, and degrade the land, air and water. This makes such investments bad business, they said.
And it appears to be working, as indigenous and grassroots pressure centering around the water protector movement at Standing Rock continues to grow. Cities like Seattle, and Davis, California divested from Wells Fargo after the project continued without the consent of the Standing Rock Sioux. European heavy hitter ING and other foreign banks have sold their stakes in the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“As women, one of our sacred roles is to protect our families, our children,” said Aru Apaza, of the Aymara Nation. “We fight for clean land, water, air and future. When institutions like Citibank fund projects that jeopardize those things, we have no choice but to show up in opposition.”