Symposium Explores Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice

On February 6, the Buder Center for American Indian Studies hosted a symposium on indigenous rights and environmental justice at Washington University’s Hillman Hall. The symposium addressed environmental and cultural issues relevant to St. Louis and the Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota.

The event featured a diverse and dynamic group of presenters. Keynote speaker Harold Frazier, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman, spoke about the indigenous people’s ongoing effort to stand up for their culture and land.  He noted that their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline is symbolic of a greater struggle to uphold land treaties between the U.S. government and indigenous tribes despite years of unjust treatment. Other speakers spoke about environmental injustices across the country, such as the impacts of uranium mining and coal power plants near the land of the Navajo Nation in Arizona, the looming impact of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline near the Lumbee tribe in North Carolina, and the dangers posed by an underground fire at West Lake Landfill in St. Louis.

As St. Louis Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia noted at the symposium, the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline is unique in that there have never been more Native American tribes coming together on a single issue. If you are looking for a way to support tribes opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, you can join a campaign by the Sierra Club, which has a goal of 115,000 signatures on a petition found here. We also invite you to join WashU’s Environmental Justice Initiative and support local efforts to stand with community members facing social and environmental injustices.