Respect Us, or Expect Us - a week of climate actions

Beginning on Indigenous People's Day, Monday, October 11, 2021, Indigenous and allied groups from around the United States took part in a week's worth of non-violent direct actions across Washington, D.C. called "People vs. Fossil Fuels." The actions sought to bring attention to climate change and the dangers of an oil-dependent U.S. economy. The protests were led by Indigenous activists from as far away as Alaska.

The 567 Indigenous communities in the U.S. have bore the brunt of climate change and an economic dependence on petroleum. The Ilse de Jean Charles Indigenous tribe in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana was the first tribe to move their whole community in 2017 using a grant from Housing and Urban Development due to land loss from rising sea levels. Climate change threatens Indigenous lives around the country, cutting off access to traditional foods and plants used for medicinal purposes.

 

According to the U.N., Indigenous people of North America could highly benefit from a change to a green economy. 1 in 3 Indigenous people live in poverty, according to Northwestern University, with an average annual income of $23,000. Tribal lands could be a great source of wind and solar power. Instead, their water is being poisoned by oil pipelines and their wild rice is being destroyed.

The actions also included discussions of environmental racism, featuring the organization Rise St. James, a faith-based organization in St. James Parish, Louisiana, 65 miles north of New Orleans. The organization fights against environmental racism furthered by petroleum and chemical plants, specifically the $9.4 billion Formosa Plastics plant in Welcome, Louisiana. Plants like Formosa this exist along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, an area colloquially known as Cancer Alley. Those chemical and petroleum plants are frequently accompanied by rare forms of cancer and other diseases.