The following is the Foreword to A Land Defender’s Guide to: Making the Exploitation of Land Expensive & Unappealing To Would-Be Colonizers, Volume I: Work-Site Blues.
You told them this was Native Land, Indigenous Territory, A Sacred Site, or even the place where your great-grandparents are buried. But they laughed in your face, and hid behind a wall of lawyers. And a wall of militarized police.
And, then, they shook hands with the very politicians who promised to protect your tribal homeland, and your great-grandmother’s grave, as they broke ground right on top of her.
This is not figurative, or metaphorical, in any sense at all. You literally watched the shovel break the ground above her resting body. Desecrating forever the sanctity of this place, and guaranteeing an afterlife without rest, or peace.
It made you feel ridiculous; a welling of impotent anger, aggrieved frustration, and justified indignation at this betrayal; at the destruction of the most precious and pristine place you were proud to call your home.
Now, it’s become the site of a lithium mine; host to a four foot wide petroleum pipeline; or worse, a dumping site for nuclear waste that won’t be safe for hundreds of thousands of years (if ever.)
Meanwhile, your ancestors are pulled out of the ground like empty corn husks. The prairies and forests you used to visit, pray and play in have been flattened and become a parking lot for heavy equipment, modular offices.
The water flowing from the springs smell bad now, and none of the animals will drink it, anymore because they will get sick, and die—just like the trees and plants that used to grow around this place.
You tried to tell them they were destroying the place you held close to your heart. Tried to tell them that the well-being of this land wasn’t just important to your people, but that it was integral to the survival of all life on earth.
Other people agreed. They said deforestation, not only led to loss of habitat for the animals you depend on, and who depend on you; but that the earth would never be able to recover from critical damage to its carbon reducing, oxygen producing, infrastructure.
Your new friends got lawyers, and held protests, made t-shirt slogans, eye-catching signs, and raised awareness on social media. But it didn’t mean anything to the people who only saw profit in loss and exploitation. And your new friends left as soon as their GoFundMe’s reached their goals—never giving you the help they promised, or the money they raised in your name.
Now your ancestor’s resting place has a metal fence around it with big signs saying “KEEP OUT”, “PRIVATE PROPERTY”. But you know the signs should be for them, instead of you, and your people.