The Fire for Survival | Sojourners

The Fire for Survival

Native struggles for environmental justice

Last year’s anti-World Trade Organization uprising was a reminder that there are detractors from the Pax Capitalista that currently placates some Americans with e-money and numbs others with the not-so-cheap thrills of day-trading. With unfettered consumption and development largely unchallenged, Seattle was one of those rare signs that this economic boom is leaving in its wake newly impoverished people and a devastated environment that has never been in worse shape.

All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life, by long-time Native American activist Winona LaDuke, is another disturbing signpost. This book implicates the current boomtown mentality flowing through America and cautions us to learn new ways to live in harmony with the environment and with our neighbors.

LaDuke examines the often heroic struggles of indigenous communities in North America and Hawaii to regain control of their traditional lands and resist the onslaught of "development"—which is rarely aimed at improving life for America’s Native peoples, but very often comes at the expense of their land and resources.

There are close to 200 environmental groups based in Native communities, most of them, as LaDuke says, "underfunded at best and more often, not funded at all." In these small groups, which lack the cash of their mainstream counterparts in the environmental movement (who, as this book points out, have rarely proved to be Native people’s allies), LaDuke found Native environmentalists who "sing centuries-old songs to renew life, to give thanks for the strawberries, to call home fish, and to thank Mother Earth for her blessings."

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2000
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