The following speech was given by First Nation/Abenaki leader Luke Willard at the Put People and the Planet First Vermont May Day demonstration in Montpelier. This rally, largely organized by the Vermont Workers Center, made history by being the largest weekday demonstration in the long history of Vermont’s Capital City. Despite rain, cold, and a grey sky, and despite the fact that Montpelier has a population of only 7800 people, 2000 Vermonters marched to demand that the needs of the People and the Planet be valued over corporate greed.
Hello Vermont Workers, Farmers, Environmentalists, Abenaki, and Revolutionaries!!!
My name is Luke Willard. I’m the Chairman of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, a Firefighter and Rescuer, and I’m a Conservation Organizer for the Vermont Sierra Club and the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe in the Northeast Kingdom. Just over a year ago, I was here to celebrate the state recognition of the Nulhegan, of which I am a member, and Elnu Abenaki tribes, and I’m very happy to report that I will be here again six days from now to celebrate the state recognition of two more tribes… the Koasek and the Missisquoi!
As a Conservation Organizer, it is my job to work at the grassroots level to encourage communities to create their own Town and Tribal Forests. We call it the OUR Forests OUR Future initiative… and we do not stand alone! So I give a shout out to the Vermont Workers Center, the AFL-CIO, 350 Vermont, and many others.
So what is Our Forests Our Future? My people have known for centuries that the land we walk upon is a gift. From this land, my people were able to meet their every need while maintaining the health and beauty of the land we call N’dakinna in the Abenaki language. Today, most know it as the Green Mountain State… Vermont. Unfortunately though, this gift has been taken for granted.
Greedy corporations, self interested out-of-staters, and even some Vermonters who have traded in their birthright for real or imagined swollen bank accounts, do not see the majestic mountains, and miles of forests. They do not see the herbs of spring, the bounties of late summer, and the colors of autumn. They do not hear the ripples of a mountain stream, the call of the loon, or the wind as it dances with leaves of a giant Vermont maple. They do not benefit from growing organic vegetables or the blessing of a deer or moose who sacrifices itself to complete the circle of life. They only see potential development, dollar signs, a place to put their pollution, and an investment in vacation home development for the wealthy who reside in lands far south of these green and rugged hills. These people, the enemies of Vermont’s working families, only hear what they want to hear. They only see the alleged benefit from the gain of elitist non-productive economic and political power, and they seek to exchange that which could serve the community, for the destruction that can only result from their personal gain. This is the challenge set before us as we, today, declare that a healthy and vibrant forest, a clean and sustainable environment, is a basic birth right of all Vermonters!
My people, the Abenaki, also know that this planet is changing. Our climate is changing. But as we adapt to these changes, it is necessary for us to lend a hand to our four-legged friends so that they may adapt to our changing environment by establishing forested migration corridors particularly in the northeast so that animals have a safe route from the spine of the Green Mountains to the vast forests of northern New Hampshire, Maine, and Quebec. We propose doing so through the creation of a mosaic of new town and tribal forests!
But let us not forget the two-legged creatures… you and me. Moms, Dads, Grandmothers, Grandfathers, and our greatest resource… our children. In exchange for our stewardship… yours and mine… Town forests and tribal forests can provide clean air to breath and clean water to drink. They can also provide essential food and medicines that haven’t been poisoned by synthetic fertilizers, hormones, and genetically modified organisms… Firewood for the disadvantaged and/or elderly… Cooperative maple sugaring… and a place for teachings our children the simplicity of sustainable living and stewardship!
Last year, over 1500 people signed our petition for the creation of new town forests. These petitions were delivered to the Governor and leaders of the Vermont General Assembly. We are pleased to report that this year the Governor is supporting increased funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Fund. This year, though, we are circulating a new petition… one that will demonstrate Vermont’s overwhelming support for Tribal Forests! It is our intention, this summer, to deliver this petition to the Governor, and to work with the administration to secure the first true and new Abenaki forest in over 200 years!
After 400 years of oppression, genocide, eugenics, and the near eradication of our culture and our people, it is time that the first Vermonters, the original Vermonters, the Abenaki, win back a meaningful piece of what was once all ours! We demand tribal-communal lands that we can hunt, fish, gather wood, and medicine. We demand a return of those tools of nature which were stolen from us generations ago. We do not stand before you today asking that we be become a ward of the state. No my fellow Vermonters; we stand before you today to demand that we be allowed the resources to not only safeguard our environment, but also to take care of our own people!! We are here today to declare that the time has come to establish Abenaki Tribal Forests in the Great State of Vermont!
Let me be as clear as I can… We do not seek acceptance or recognition from a federal government which is marred in blood, war, imperialism (both abroad and at home), corruption, inaction, and failure. We do not seek rights to gambling or other vices. We simply seek to work with the State of Vermont in setting aside lands which we can preserve in its natural state, and work according to our traditions; those which predate 1492 and 1791. We seek a place in these Green Hills that we can, again, call our own!
And here, we know we are not alone. We have been working with the Vermont Sierra Club and others represented in this crowd today to achieve these goals. We understand that our battle will only be won through a grand and united Popular Front composed of all those individuals and organizations who are gathered here today in solidarity! And in turn, we, the Nulhegan Abenaki, look forward to working with you to see that Vermont Put’s People and The Planet First!
So, as the sun goes down over this failed empire of greed, we, the Abenaki people, the People of the Dawn, reach out our hand in friendship to all Vermonters; be they the sons and daughters of the Green Mountain Boys, the grandchildren of Quebecquoi immigrants, or more recent arrivals. Together we are Vermont Strong and together we will win!
May 2, 2012
Hours after a police officer shot during a search of a Mapuche Indian community in the southern region of Araucania died of his wounds, Chilean officials announced a special committee to address the problem of violence in the area.
Sgt. Hugo Albornoz of the Carabineros – Chile’s militarized national police – died Monday night at the hospital in Temuco, Araucania Gov. Andres Molina said.
The sergeant was shot while providing cover for a search of the Mapuche community of Wente Winkul Mapu, commanders said.
Werken.cl, a Web site associated with Mapuche activists, said residents of Wente Winkul Mapu have been trying to recover Indian land currently held by three forestry companies and land baron Juan de Dios Fuentes.
Monday’s search came two days after at least six hooded men shot at a Carabineros post set up to protect Fuentes’ estate.
The head of the Carabineros, Gustavo Gonzalez, told reporters at the scene of Albornoz’s fatal shooting called the assault an ambush and said that two other officers were wounded.
via Latin American Herald Tribune – Chilean Cop Shot During Search of Indian Community Dies.
of course, when corporations and wealthy landowners steal from and murder indigenous people, the media takes little notice. when the threatened communities fight back, they are terrorists.
according to liberacion total, ten houses were ransacked by the thugs in uniform – which included members of the GOPA – the special operations unit of the police forces. all that was found were a shotgun and a balaclava – enough “evidence” to detain two women who occupied the houses where the offensive hunting weapon and mask were found.
the article goes on to say that the local mapuche community has been fighting to prevent the racist land owner and timber companies from illegally taking mapuche land.
The Forest Mininco reported that during Wednesday night, about 22.00, the contractor Foresega Ltd suffered an arson attack six of their forest harvesting machines in the town of Puerto Choque sector near Lake Lleu-Lleu , region Bio-Bio.
As a result of this act, was found burning three machines and three machines trineumáticos skidder. Despite the flames destroying the injured workers are not in place.
In the forest works where the attack occurred about 140 people work, belonging to the communes and Tirúa Lumaco.
Product of the forest fire company will consider the steps not ruling out further legal action, “all to find those responsible for this cowardly attack that not only affects the assets of the company but a damage in the labor pool of people working in the place “the company said in a statement.
Police already working on finding the perpetrators.
Problems are brewing between the government of Ecuador and an indigenous tribe over state plans to increase oil production in the Amazon forest.
The Sarayaku people say their way of life will be lost if drilling is allowed on their land.
i am a defender of the rainforest
this is part one of a documentary about the pople in the sarayako region of ecuador, who are resisting the increasing presence of oil companies in their region.
it’s slow moving, but if you take the time to watch, it is inspiring on so many levels.
Hi, We are a group of children ages 5-17 who have teamed up with the Williams Community Forest Project to save the forest in the heart of our town from a devastating 320 acre clear-cut. This pristine forest is part of a major corridor for animal migration, and home to numerous endangered and threatened species such as the Red Tree Vole, Pacific Fisher, Mariposa Lily and Northern Spotted Owl. It contains the headwaters for three of our creeks which provide the people and farms of the Williams Valley with some of the cleanest drinking and irrigation water in the nation. Because this land is privately owned, it is within the owners right to clear-cut the trees and spray noxious, cancer causing herbicides afterward which will wash down these creeks.. These are the same creeks which flow through our homes and provide irrigation water to our many organic farms. We play in these creeks in the summer. We have decided to buy this land and turn it into a community forest which will be protected by the Williams Community Forest Project in perpetuity and preserved as a Community Forest to be used by all. It will be managed ecologically and sustainably to support and enrich our local and global forest ecology and community. We have already raised over $150,000 towards the $500,000 we need to secure a million dollar low interest loan and buy the land.
If this campaign is not successful, the consequences are devastating. A clearcut of this magnitude would have a disastrous effect on our local environment and economy. It would affect the entire watershed by destroying important habitat, causing massive erosion, and most likely poisoning our water with herbicides.
With your help, we plan to prevent this clearcut by purchasing this land to secure it’s future for present and future generations. We envision a forest maintained for the benefit of our local ecology and community. This community forest will provide rich educational and recreational opportunities and serve as a model for sustainable forest management.
What We Need & What You Get
The owner could begin logging as soon as March 1. He has already initiated road building in preparation for this clearcut. We need to raise $500,000 before this date. We have already raised $150,000. That means we need to raise $350,000 more dollars. We are pursuing many avenues of funding including several grants, a concert, and a fund raising dinner. Please help us save this pristine forest. Any level of donation helps us toward our goal! Any donation over $250 receives a tax deductible receipt from the Williams Community Forest Project.
Other Ways You Can Help
seeing as how inactive we are during the winter, there will be intermittent solidarity posts here about forest defense and defenders around the world. here’s the first one:
For indigenous groups in Indonesia, the rainforest plays a crucial role in their cultural belief system.
As vast areas of the forest are being cut down to make space for palm oil plantations, one community in the heart of Borneo is pushing back to try to defend its land.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen reports from East Kalimantan:
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently signed a two-year moratorium on new logging concessions and as a result will receive $1 billion dollars from Norway as part of a UN-backed bilateral agreement in helping to reduce emissions.
But in secretly filmed footage, Al Jazeera reveals that the reality on the ground paints a different picture where government officials continue to grant hundreds of licenses to mining and logging companies.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen reports from Borneo:
palm oil producer accused of illegal logging
Global consumer product giants Unilever and Nestle have stopped buying palm oil for use in its goods from Indonesia’s largest producer Sinar Mas. The company is accused by environmental activists Greenpeace of illegally clearing forests in Indonesia for its plantations. Sinar Mas denies the claims and says it’s hired independent auditors to prove its case. Step Vaessen reports (27 April, 2010).