Indigenous leaders speak out on Russia’s Ukraine invasion

Indigenous communities have a unique perspective on Ukraine’s tragic and horrific situation.

They understand what it’s like to be invaded by a colonial power.

They see the war not only as an attack on human rights, but an attack on Mother Earth.

Here is some of what is being said by Indigenous leaders and Indigenous press about the situation in Ukraine.

Chuck Hoskin Jr., Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the Cherokee Phoenix.

Our Nation knows well how vitally important the right to self-determination is because, in our history, we have at times been denied that right and the ability to chart our own destiny as a peoples.

Chuck Hoskin Jr.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez tweeted:

We ask our Navajo people to remember the people of Ukraine in your prayers as they seek shelter and protection from the ongoing attacks from Russia. Just as our Navajo Code Talkers defended our country and protected democracy, our proud Dine men and women serving in the military stand ready to serve once again, but we pray that the situation does not escalate further and that our world leaders reach a peaceful resolution so that our military men and women are not put in harm’s way.

Jonathan Nez

Dallas Goodtooth, Keep It in the Ground campaign director for the Indigenous Environmental Network, tweeted:

I know the reasons for the #UkraineCrisis are complicated, but it would be remiss of us not to mention how energy is a factor in this invasion.

In some ways, this conflict is being driven, literally and figuratively, with hands lathered in oil and gas.

Dallas Goldtooth

Jade Begay, climate justice campaign director for the NDN Collective, said Russia’s oil and gas money allowed it to pay for the invasion, according to an article in Indian Country Today.

This makes it clear that not only are oil and gas used to carry out war but are also a root cause for exponential climate change. Second, as an organizer who is actively working to shut down fossil fuel infrastructure, I am hyper aware that this conflict will potentially drive up domestic oil and gas development, onshore and offshore gas leasing, and/or potentially roll back recent wins when it comes to fossil fuels, thus contributing to an increase in carbon emissions. Finally, I’d be remiss to not mention the impact that militaries have on the climate, when it comes to the U.S., our military is the single largest institutional polluter in the world, which creates more greenhouse emissions than 140 other countries.

Jade Begay

Krystal Two Bulls, NDN Collective’s LANDBACK Campaign Director, challenged the narrative of the United States as hero, in an article in Indian Country Today.

The invasion of Ukraine is deplorable and illegal — but there is no response from the US Military that will end in good. We must be both in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and in opposition to US militarism and imperialism.

War only benefits corporations, specifically war profiteers and the oil & gas industry. It is the people who will suffer under sanctions. The US is not the savior here. So, I call on people to continue to center the voices of the people who will be hurt most by the invasion.

Krystal Two Bulls

As a Post Script, Indigenous people above the Arctic Circle are wary of what Russia’s attacks forshadow, according to the Indian Country Today article Monitoring the Arctic in Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Rising temperatures and melting ice have opened Arctic waterways to more navigation, the article said.

Russia’s Arctic military buildup is noticeable. “To date, Russia has at least 16 deep water ports, 14 operational airfields, a new command, and roughly 50 icebreakers in their Arctic territory, some of which are nuclear powered,” it said. “In comparison, Alaska has two military bases, two airfields, and two icebreakers.”

“We’re the eyes and ears on the ground. We’re very close to Russia. We see what’s happening. We see what boats that are going through our seas,” said Melanie Bahnke, Yupik, in a 2020 conference on the issue hosted by the Alaska Federation of Natives, the largest Indigenous gathering in the state.

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