As much of America sat down to Thanksgiving dinner last year, the American government had just released water cannons, rubber bullets, and teargas on indigenous protestors on the Standing Rock reservation. Their supposed crime? Protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline and corporate and federal government incursions on their sovereignty and the environment.
While the attack against protestors was brutal, it was also, sadly, far from unprecedented. Dominant white American society has often told the story of Thanksgiving as one of “cooperation” between indigenous Americans and white settler-colonizers, but history tells us that the story of North American colonization was a brutally violent land grab, genocide, and government and corporate looting. It was, perhaps, ironically appropriate that as the U.S. government was celebrating good relations between colonizers and colonized, many actual indigenous people were putting themselves on the line to protect their land and sovereignty from continued abuse.
This year, late November brings with it a disturbing realization of some of the most dire predictions about the dangers of pipelines — in the form of a recent spill from the Keystone pipeline that released 210,000 gallons of oil on South Dakota fields.
But it also brings new forms of resistance. Indigenous people continue fighting to protect their land and lives from the American government and corporations’ pro-fossil fuels, anti-people, and anti-indigenous environmental policies. Prominent among them is Mazaska Talks, an indigenous-led coalition working to divest cities from banks that fund fossil fuel companies which threaten native sovereignty, environmental integrity, and human rights.
“Mazaska” means “money” in Lakota, and that’s precisely what the coalition is going after. Consisting of a coalition of indigenous groups, Mazaska Talks was born out of the indigenous-led 2017 campaign demanding that Seattle divest from the banks which most egregiously support fossil fuels. Following a series of protests, the city of Seattle voted to divest from Wells Fargo in protest of its support for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Since then, Mazaska Talks has continued to lead protests in Seattle, most recently protesting at 100 banks in late October.
This latest action was part of the #DivesttheGlobe campaign, meant to draw attention to the Brazil meeting of 92 banks looking to sign the “Equator Principles,” an agreement of standards of social and environmental best practices for banks. #DivesttheGlobe saw actions in at least 44 cities in the U.S. and Canada, with additional actions in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
And banks have already begun to take notice: In early October, BNP Paribas, the world’s 7th largest bank, became the most recent bank to take action on the issue, announcing that it would divest from “pipelines that primarily carry oil and gas from shale and/or oil from tar sands” and will end “business relations with companies that derive the majority of their revenue from these activities.”
So this Thanksgiving, help Mazaska Talks keep up their momentum and – as the coalition’s website reminds us – “put your money where your solidarity is.” Divest yourself. Take action to divest your community. And donate to the Seventh Generation Network, supporting Mazaska Talks and other indigenous-run campaigns for self-determination, sovereignty, and the environment.
Cover photo: #DivesttheGlobe action, photo by John Duffy
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