Source: University of Alaska www.uaf.edu/anla/collections/map/
For centuries, indigenous peoples have lived in harmony with the ecosystems they are a part of. Rights of nature are in line with indigenous culture’s traditional worldview and conceptions that we are all connected. The Native Tlingit people of Alaska, whose name translates to “People of The Tides,” have called the Southeastern Alaskan shoreline home for thousands of years. Much of their diet consists of local seafood and other native species.
The Tlingit people are facing an issue from the Green Creaks Mining company. Green Creaks is encroaching on natural land in Hawk Inlet by infesting it with their dumping. This infected water disturbs local fauna, and creatures as far as sixty miles away in Angoon, where a large Tlingit population resides. As coastlines recede more of the dangerous minerals from the mining company are breaching further away from its dumping site. We have to re-examine policy to keep up with changing environmental systems.
ELC is working closely with the Angoon Community Association (ACA) in Angoon Alaska to address the myriad of issues ACA and their environment face. This includes indigenous sovereignty, pollution in Hawk Inlet and gray water in the Chatham Straits. ELC is assisting with amendments to ACA’s tribal constitution, ensuring the recognition of nature’s rights.
The Tlingit people and other tribes banded together to create a coalition to tackle these problems that impact indigenous people’s way of life. The Angoon Community Association tackles the various issues that prevent Angoon citizens from having to say in issues related to their home and surrounding area, along with being a bastion for community outreach.
“I want to thank ‘Di-kee aan kaawoo’ which translates to ‘Our heavenly Father’ for the opportunity to take care of the resource,” a quote by Frank Jack, Sr., Tlingit Bear Chief and House Master of the Shanaax Hit (Valley House) of Angoon, Alaska.
Earth Law is an ethical framework that recognizes nature’s right to exist, thrive and evolve - enabling nature to defend these rights in court, just like corporations can. When we recognize the importance of ecosystems and species, we can then adopt a more holistic approach to our decision-making around coastal area protections and ensure that the natural environment thrives both now and in the future.
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Darlene May Lee is Executive Director of Earth Law Center, which works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. She works to build a force of advocates for nature's rights at the local, state, national, and international levels. Connect with Earth Law Center on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Read all of Darlene’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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