By OPAL Intern Lela Brown
I’ve been organizing since my teenage years. With the police killing of Kendra James, I saw a more urgent need to organize against white supremacy and police brutality. Late last summer that effort became tied to environmental work when I was tasked to travel to Standing Rock and what would later be named Oçeti Sakowin camp by a trusted indigenous and labor activist.
Standing Rock showed me that a truly liberated space is possible, and that the inevitable chaos and complexity of our movement is to be embraced. Being there was an experience in my own integrity in a way that I have strived for but found elusive in other spaces working for change. We were invited to act right by people who had gained deep respect through long-term relationships. We came there to protect indigenous sovereignty and the health of indigenous communities. I didn’t expect to find my own renewed connection with my Jewish ancestors. I discovered my own strength and surprising healing through working to keep displacement and subjugation that affected my family from happening to anyone else. The Dakota Access Pipeline was built, but the successes of Standing Rock comes from the capacity and vision that was made real in those camps, and the way resources were mobilized to make that vision real against so many odds.
The Pacific Northwest is a strategic arena in the fight to keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground and climate-altering carbon and toxic chemicals out of our water, air, atmosphere, and bodies. In the past five years activists in our region have fought two oil pipelines, eleven oil train facilities, four coal terminals, and six new natural gas pipelines, and more. We’ve said “no” to fossil fuel infrastructure and most projects have been successfully halted. But one big pipeline project in Southern Oregon seemingly just won’t die. The Pacific Connector Pipeline and Jordan Cove LNG export facility threaten indigenous lands and waterways, and the health of our planet. If built, it will be the first fracked LNG infrastructure on the west coast – right here in Oregon.
Our friends at Rogue Climate are working collaboratively to ensure the most critical voices are heard to stop the pipeline and to stop further, ridiculous investment in new massive fossil fuel infrastructure. On Thursday November 16th, Rogue Climate members came to Portland to meet with OPAL and other OJTA partners like the Native American Youth and Family Center, Portland African American Leadership Forum, and APANO, and talk about organizing to resist the extractive economy.
Rogue Climate organizes in small towns and rural spaces that are often overlooked by political and economic decision makers. More often, rural communities are silenced, spoken for to justify harmful decisions, and offered false choices between jobs and environmentally-devastating developments. Rogue Climate brings people of diverse communities together, highlighting the voices and stories of frontline people in rural areas.
Visiting us were youth from the Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa Valley and Klamath Tribes along with Hannah Sohl, Executive Director of Rogue Climate. We discussed their efforts to stop LNG export infrastructure in southern Oregon. Like at Standing Rock, Rogue Climate youth organizers are starting from a place of love and commitment, and they described coming together with all kinds of people with vastly different perspectives but the same stake: a healthy landscape for families, fisheries, farming and long-term environmental and economic health of their communities.
“Ask any kid in our valley what was their favorite memory and it’s something on the river. The river is part of our life and it’s part of our world renewal ceremony,” said one of the Indigenous Youth.
Part of the organizing strategy against the fracked gas pipeline and export terminal is using intervenors to give frontline community members legal standing to make official statements to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Rogue Climate is working to build communities up as they organize resistance to the megaproject. They are showing that when the people with the most to lose are lifted up and real collaborative coalitions form, amazing things happen, even if our power still doesn’t outmatch the tide that’s against us. Rogue Climate is a leader in the fight for long-term economic and ecological thinking, strategically working for peace, less competition for scarce resources, less environmental illnesses, more beautiful healthy spaces to play and gather, and preservation of culturally necessary and sacred places.
Standing Rock continued a long legacy of indigenous resistance, solidarity, and environmental organizing. Many of the same organizers who made Standing Rock possible are working along the route of the proposed pipeline and LNG facility in Southern Oregon. OPAL will be with them in this fight, and I hope you’ll join us.
Here are other organizations working to keep fossil fuel infrastructure out of Oregon: