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News Release

Indigenous Environmental Network

The United States Attorney’s office has decided to not charge 33 Indigenous water protectors and their allies who were arrested while peacefully occupying the Bureau of Indian Affairs lobby in the US Department of Affairs building on October 14th, 2021. This was the first time since the 1972’s Trail of Broken Treaties that Indigenous leaders occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Indigenous leaders were met with extreme violence from the police leaving one Indigenous woman with a broken hand, others were hit with batons, two people were tazed and an Indigenous media reporter was assaulted with an officer kneeling on his neck and had his equipment damaged by the police during the attack on peaceful water protectors.

Water protectors occupied the building demanding the abolition of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US government honor the treaties including the restoration of 110 million acres (450,000 km2) of land taken away from Native Nations, Indigenous children buried at residential schools be returned to their tribal nations, no new leases for oil and gas or extractive industry on public lands, the US government establish a policy of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, restoration of terminated rights.

The occupation followed a week of historic Indigenous resistance in Washington D.C that started on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, where “Expect Us” was written on the Andrew Jackson statue outside of the White House ahead of 130 Indigenous leaders and allies being arrested outside of the White House on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Despite a proclamation declaring October 11th Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Indigenous leaders were met with police violence and LRAD was used on Indigenous matriarchs and youth being arrested on the White House fence. This was followed by two Water Protectors demanding Biden Stop Line 3 climbing the flagpole outside the Army Corp North Atlantic Division Office, replacing it with a “Free Informed and Prior Consent” flag that read “Consultation is not Consent.” The day after the occupation Native youth from various fights were arrested out of the U.S Capital blocking the street. Indigenous water protectors were in town participating in a larger People Vs. Fossil Fuels week of action in which over 600 people were arrested outside of the White House demanding Biden declare a climate emergency. 

Under attack from these fossil fuel projects, Indigenous peoples are fighting back: and winning. A recent report by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International showed how over the last decade Indigenous resistance has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one-quarter of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions. By blocking at least 26 major fossil fuel projects, these Indigenous leaders and water protectors have stopped projects equivalent to 400 new coal-fired power plants, or roughly 345 million new passenger vehicles.

The following is a statement from Indigenous Leaders who occupied the DOI and their allies:

Our fight is far from over, we will continue to rise for our youth, for the land, and for the water.

We will not back down until our natural balance is restored and our relationship to the sacred knowledge of Mother Earth and all who depend on her is honored. From the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota to oil and gas drilling in Alaska, Indigenous peoples and our allies will continue to stand on the frontlines of the fight against fossil fuels. Major pipeline projects and other forms of oil and gas extraction not only threaten the land and water in Native communities, but are often in direct violation of treaty rights or violate laws around Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Fossil fuel construction has also been linked to sex trafficking and an increase in Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Politicians do not take care of us. Presidents will break their promises but Mother Earth has always given us what we need to thrive. Those who ignore climate change and the destruction and loss it creates in our communities, will be held accountable.

We protect the sacred.

Another world is possible, expect us.

About Indigenous Environmental Network

Established in 1990, the Indigenous Environmental Network is an international environmental justice nonprofit that works with tribal grassroots organizations to build the capacity of Indigenous communities. Indigenous Environmental Network’s activities include empowering Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, the health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities.

Learn more here: ienearth.org.

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55 Indigenous people and allies arrested occupying Bureau of Indian Affairs

Frontline Indigenous leaders occupy the Bureau of Indian Affairs in D.C. for the first time since the 1970s