James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has put out a call for information on extractive and energy industries in or near indigenous territories.
The special Rapporteur is conducting a study of the impacts extractive and energy industries’ have on Indigenous Peoples and the human rights issues that these industries generate. In addition, the study will identify good practices for the industries to use in order to avoid or overcome the human rights violations that may occur. Notice of the study and how to submit information and comments are available on Anaya’s website. The deadline to submit information and comments is April 1, 2013.
Anaya is seeking information about the location, description and impacts of the extractive and energy industries in indigenous territories, the names of parties involved, the applicable legislation, consultation and consent processes, conflicts, good practices, mitigation measures, experiences with benefit-sharing agreements, and other relevant information.
A wide range of entities are invited to participate in the process and provide information for the study, including Indigenous Peoples, non-governmental organizations that work with them, governments companies and interested parties. Participants can provide information about extractive industries such as mining, petroleum or gas projects and energy production including hydroelectric projects in or near indigenous territories.
Extractive and energy industries have been accused of practicing environmental racism on poor minority populations. Environmental racism is defined as the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on these minority communities. “It is the racial discrimination in the enactment or enforcement of any policy, practice, or regulation that negatively affects the environment of low-income and/or racially homogeneous communities at a disparate rate than affluent communities,” according to US Legal.
Sovereign Indian nations, particularly in the American west, continue to be significantly impacted by radioactive and other hazardous wastes because of the proximity of nuclear test sites, uranium mines, power plants, toxic waste dumps and extractive industries. Some tribes have agreed to store hazardous waste on their reservations to generate revenue. “In the quest to dispose of nuclear waste, the government and private companies have disregarded and broken treaties, blurred the definition of Native American sovereignty, and directly engaged in a form of economic racism akin to bribery,” Bayley Lopez of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation told Health News Digest. He cites examples of the government and private companies taking advantage of the “overwhelming poverty on Native reservations by offering them millions of dollars to host nuclear waste storage sites.”
But it is not only multinational extractive and energy corporations wasting the land; the U.S. military is one of the worst sources of pollution across the country, according to The Treadmill of Destruction: National Sacrifice Areas and Native Americans, a study by sociologists Gregory Hooks and Chad L. Smith published in the American Sociological Review. The study found “that much of the disproportional exposure of Native Americans to environmental dangers throughout the 20th century was the result of militarism, rather than economic competition. And it shows that historically coercive governmental policies in locating Indian reservations are a major factor in determining their exposure."
Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe), the internationally acclaimed author, orator and activist, exposed the impacts of the federal military on Native lands, peoples, and economies in The Militarization of Indian Country, which she co-authored with Sean Cruz. “Together, LaDuke & Cruz take an honest look at what impact the military has had on Native peoples since early colonization. From military use of Native names to outright poisoning of Native peoples for military testing, the U.S. military’s impact on Indian country is unparalleled,” according to a synopsis on LaDuke’s Honor the Earth website, where the book may be purchased.
Buffy St. Marie also addressed the impact of extractive industries on Indian county in her classic 1996 song, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”:
They got these energy companies who want the land
And they've got churches by the dozens
Want to guide our hands
And sign Mother Earth over to pollution, war and greed
Get rich… get rich quick.
(Chorus) Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Huh.
An audio of the song is here.