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    STRUGGLE CONTINUES: The 15th Protecting Mother Earth Gathering a Huge Success

    By Aaron Mercredi
    From July 17th to 20th, the Indigenous Environmental Network held its 15th ‘Protecting Mother Earth’ Conference. This year the theme was, ‘Answering Mother Earth’s Call for Healing—Reaffirming Our Roots.’ Hosted by the Western Shoshone Defense Project, the conference and gathering took place on Western Shoshone territory in Newe Sogobe, in the Northern part of the state of Nevada. Over 300 delegates and participants, from Indigenous nations across North and South America, and groups from Europe took part in the discussions of energy and climate change, ecological destruction, protection of sacred sites, and the ongoing fight for Indigenous sovereignty.

    The struggle against resource extraction industries in Indigenous communities was one of the main topics throughout the conference. Many participants drew on their experience coming from Indigenous communities impacted by this threat, and their campaigns against it. The case of the KI First Nation in Northern Ontario was presented. Six community leaders from KI were arrested and jailed simply for defending their people from a violation of their inherent rights to their land, as well as environmental devastation to their territory by Platinex, an exploration company. The ongoing fight against the destructive and poisonous tar sands extraction in Northern Alberta was also presented. Since the tar sands project started, Dene, Cree, and Metis people who normally live off the land, are dealing with some of the rarest forms of cancer in their communities.

    Throughout the US, it is the same story. The same companies that have created environmental havoc and devastated Indigenous communities with the tar sands, have proposed to build refineries for the oil extracted from those tar sands on Indigenous lands in North and South Dakota. While the conference was taking place, the Western Shoshone were still facing the threat of their land being further plundered by mining companies. For many years, the Western Shoshone Defense Project has been struggling against companies like Barrick and Newmont, who have been violating their treaty rights, desecrating sacred sites, and ruining their land. The conference opened up a space for people leading these struggles to share their experience.

    The 15th ‘Protecting Mother Earth’ Conference was a great success in bringing people in struggle for Indigenous rights and environmental justice together. This meant sharing lessons they’ve learned, to find common struggles and unite to build a stronger international movement for Indigenous rights.

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