For over a century, the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Interior Department have stood idly by while private ranchers and muti-billion dollar mining and timber firms have run roughshod over millions of acres of “federally protected” public lands, many of which are facetiously designated “wilderness areas.”
Forests have become so degraded, so fragmented, so infected with unfettered industrial extraction, they no longer qualify as carbon sinks, but as a new source of greenhouse gas emissions.
And if the Dakota Access Pipeline saga taught us anything, it’s that the federal government doesn’t really care what the Indians drink, as long as it’s fermented, distilled, and taxed by the state.
Now, taking inspiration from the Standing Rock Water Protectors and the Maori people of New Zealand, Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk tribe have voted to amend their constitution to extend full legal rights and protection to the water and the land, and all the non-human creatures and spirits who therein reside.
“In response to the Standing Rock Sioux battle against the Dakota Access pipeline, the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin amended its constitution to include the Rights of Nature. This is the first time a North American tribe has used a Western legal framework to adopt such laws. Some American municipalities have protected their watersheds against fracking by invoking Rights of Nature.
Operating from a Lakota paradigm, the oil pipeline damage to Standing Rock sacred sites and threats to the Missouri River are an infringement on spiritual connection. Consider the irony of a Western paradigm that gives corporations the rights of people while government agencies give insufficient protection to the actual people affected. What if these waters—connected to the Creation Stories of the Lakota communities—were given legal personhood?
Here’s how New Zealand did it. After more than a century of legal battle, the Maori Iwi secured protection by forcing the New Zealand Crown to honor their practices, beliefs, and connection to the Whanganui River. As a result of the Te Awa Tupua Bill (Whanganui River Claims Settlement), the river has the legal rights of a person and is represented by two individuals. In passing this legislation, the New Zealand Crown also committed to protecting the customary practices of the Iwi regarding the river, and offered apologies and financial redress for historical wrongdoing.”
Read the rest at Indianz, and keep in mind that America is currently missing 99% of its grasslands, 96% of its old growth forests, and that over half of our rivers are too contaminated to support aquatic ecosystems. LONG LIVE THE LORAX and Power to the Ho-Chunk!