MAC: Mines and Communities

US: Indigenous peoples demand green careers and communities

Published by MAC on 2009-02-23
Source: Indian Country Today (2009-02-16)

WASHINGTON - American Indian leaders in the emerging green economy traveled to the nation's capitol to lobby representatives, network and work together to demand good green jobs, careers and communities for Indian country. Representatives from the Navajo, Acoma, Oglala Sioux, Ojibwe, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nations participated in the Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference in Washington D.C. recently.

"We are here to ensure that indigenous communities and nations will be a part of the emerging green economy," said Jihan Gearon, Native energy organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network and member of the Navajo Nation. "More so than mere participation and tokenization, we are here to ensure that in this emerging economy, our communities truly benefit and lead. There are numerous opportunities in Indian country to do so."

The Navajo Green Economy Plan is one such example. The plan would generate hundreds of green jobs across the Navajo Nation and support local, community led, owned and operated initiatives such as small and large scale renewable energy development, green manufacturing textile mills, weatherization projects, weavers coops, traditional and organic agricultural markets and green jobs training programs.

"With millions of federal dollars ready to be distributed across the country to support green jobs, we are prepared to support our local community and in doing so lead the nation in creating sustainable and just societies," said Kelvin Long, member of the Navajo Green Economy Coalition and the Navajo Nation.

American Indian lands, as well as indigenous territories worldwide, have been historically and systematically targeted for fossil fuel - coal, oil and gas - development, which has resulted in the contamination and depletion of water, land and community health. Solutions to energy independence and climate change in the U.S., such as nuclear power and clean coal, pose the threat of exacerbating these negative effects.

"Green jobs must not include jobs for industries that will drag out the use of dirty and unsustainable energy," said Petuuche Gilbert of Acoma pueblo in New Mexico, a community affected by uranium mining. "In this new economy, we must break the cycle of being marginalized people and forced to choose between economic development and preservation of our culture and lands. We are against renewed uranium mining. Nuclear is not green."

Tribal lands have an estimated 535 billion kWh/year of wind power generation potential, about 14 percent of U.S. annual generation. Tribal lands also hold an estimated 17,000 billion kWh/year of solar electricity generation potential - 4.5 times total U.S. annual generation. As Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth and member of the Ojibwe Nation points out, "The reality is that the most efficient, green economy will need the vast wind and solar resources that lie on Native American lands. And we are prepared to lead."

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