By Jazmin Murphy
September 15, 2020
“Whenever you talk about race relations here in so-called ‘America,’ Indigenous communities [are] always the last ones on the rung,” says Wanbli Wiyan Ka’win (Eagle Feather Woman), also known as Joye Braun, a front-line community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network who fought against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. In defending the land so deeply beloved and cherished by her people, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Braun recounts how actively her community is excluded from environmental work and how she and her colleagues are blatantly silenced, even when working alongside allies. “We’ve had to really fight … to even have a seat at the table,” she says.
The exclusion of Indigenous people and other non-White communities in environmental and conservation work is, unfortunately, nothing new. For centuries, conservation has been driven by Eurocentric, Judeo-Christian belief structures that emphasize a distinct separation of “Man” and “Nature”—an ideology that does not mesh well with many belief structures, including those belonging to Indigenous communities.