Indigenous Communities and Environmental Justice
By Raymond Foxworth
October 9, 2020
I am excited to kick off this first ever series for the Nonprofit Quarterly magazine focused on environmental justice and Indigenous communities in the United States. Too often, Native voices in all aspects of American life are silenced and marginalized, and this has continued to be the case in the global environmental justice movement. This series is an attempt to bring Native leaders working for environmental justice in their communities into the conversation, to speak for themselves and discuss how they are mobilizing to stop environmental degradation and racism and build more sustainable futures for their communities and beyond.
Native lands today, once thought to be barren and desolate areas fit only for Indians, cumulatively occupy over 55 million acres of land and 57 million acres of subsurface mineral estates. The lands of Native nations sit on top of “nearly 30 percent of the nation’s coal reserves west of the Mississippi, as much as 50 percent of potential uranium reserves, and up to 20 percent of known natural gas and oil reserves.” In all, according to the Department of Energy, Native lands today house over 15 million acres of potential energy and mineral resources—and nearly 90 percent of those resources are untapped.