Honor The Earth (HTE) was established in 1993 by Winona LaDuke and the Indigo Girls music duo, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. LaDuke has served as the group’s executive director since its inception. HTE’s twofold mission is to “create awareness and support for Native environmental issues,” and to “develop needed financial and political resources for the survival …
HTE’s twofold mission is to “create awareness and support for Native environmental issues,” and to “develop needed financial and political resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities.” Reasoning from the premise that capitalist economic policies are inherently harmful to the natural environment and to poor people, the organization maintains that “a sustainable world is predicated on transforming economic, social, and political relationships that have been based on systems of conquest, toward systems based on just relationships with each other and with the natural world.” Favoring a blend of socialism and radical environmentalism, HTE aims to “restor[e] a paradigm that recognizes our collective humanity and our joint dependence on the Earth.”
“With climate change quickly becoming a reality,” says HTE, “Indigenous peoples around the globe are feeling the [e]ffects of droughts, floods and other climate catastrophes.” To address these matters, the organization calls for the rapid development of “renewable energy” technologies in the form of wind and solar power, so as to “transform a highly inefficient and exploitative energy production system into one that is safe and clean, a transformation that would signify an era of energy justice.”
HTE condemns “the rise of a highly inefficient American industrial society on our lands,” a reference to mining enterprises in the heart of Anishinaabe territory in the Keewenaw Bay (an arm of Lake Superior) and the Mesabe Iron Range of Minnesota. Noting, in a similar vein, that the regions of Diné Bii Kaya, the Crow Nation, the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, and the Powder River Basin are “home to one-third of all western coal reserves,” HTE complains that “this land has been exploited for over fifty years for coal mining.” HTE also opposes the oil and gas extraction method known as fracking, because “methane and [other] dangerous materials are released” in the process, potentially “pollut[ing] the aquifers that sustain the life of our communities in a way that can’t be fixed.” Describing the United States as a “highly extractive” society whose “highly inefficient” energy policies have rendered the earth irreparably “scorched” and damaged, HTE “is interested in the transition from this destructive economy and way of life, back towards land-based economics,” where “intergenerational and inter-species equity are valued.”
HTE strongly opposes the construction and/or expansion of oil pipelines — some of which would pass through Indian reservations — in various places across North America. Most notable among the projects rejected by HTE are the Dakota Access Pipeline (from North Dakota to Illinois); the Sandpiper Pipeline (from North Dakota to Wisconsin); the Alberta Clipper Pipeline (from Alberta, Canada to Wisconsin); the Keystone XL Pipeline (from Alberta to Nebraska); and the MinnCann Pipeline (in Minnesota).
HTE claims that “there is an epidemic of sexual violence being perpetrated [by oil-industry workers] against indigenous women in the Great Lakes region, driven by extreme extraction in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and the Tar Sands of Alberta.” The “context” of “this epidemic,” says HTE, is America’s “history of colonization, genocide, and systemic violence against Indigenous peoples, which has always disproportionately affected women and girls.” To address the problem, HTE “is working with a coalition of women’s and Native American organizations to convene ongoing hearings and investigations.” As its first action, this coalition requested a formal intervention by the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Important past campaigns conducted by HTE include the following:
- The “Standing Strong for Carbon Regulation in New Mexico” campaign sought to severely restrict the degree to which utility, oil, and gas companies – which were allegedly “taking advantage of New Mexico families, low-income families, and minority communities by poisoning the air” – could “bur[n] coal and other fossil fuels” and thereby “releas[e] mass amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air.” To address the matter, HTE supported a petition that had been filed before the Environmental Improvement Board, calling for a 25 percent reduction (by 2020) in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels.
- The “Dooda Desert Rock” campaign aimed to prevent the construction of a proposed 1,500-megawatt mine-mouth plant in the Four Corners Region of the Navajo Reservation. By HTE’s telling, “Desert Rock would … emit 12.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, the primary greenhouse gas causing global warming. Along with greenhouse gases, the plant would emit pollutants associated with asthma, pulmonary disease, increased rates of heart attack and stroke and increased rates of birth defects and developmental delays.”
- The “Stop The Tar Sands” campaign called for an end to the extraction of crude oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, on the premise that the extraction process was highly destructive to the environment and to public health. Said HTE: “The downstream Indigenous community of Ft. Chipewyan has unheard-of rates of rare cancers. The fish are not safe to eat, and the land is littered with toxic ponds and craters.”
- The “Stop The Big Stone II Plant” campaign pressured the Otter Tail Power Company to withdraw its commitment to the construction of a proposed 580-megawatt coal-fired power plant called “Big Stone II” in South Dakota. By HTE’s telling, the plant’s coal emissions would inevitably “poison the air and water of the nearby Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate [tribes]”