Indigenous Leader Kandi Mossett: “It’s Not OK for Our Women to Die Because We Want to Protect Water”
indigenous activist from North Dakota and an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.
executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.
The People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., was led by people from front-line and indigenous communities, whose lives are most impacted by the extraction of fossil fuel and the effects of climate change. Among those who were at the march were Tom Goldtooth and Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network.
MARCHERS: Can’t drink oil! Keep it in the soil! Can’t drink oil! Keep it in the soil!
AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman, joined right now by two indigenous leaders. We’re joined by Tom Goldtooth, who is one of the founders of the Indigenous Environmental Network, and Kandi Mossett. Kandi Mossett is—well, the last time I saw her, we were on a sacred burial ground in North Dakota. The Dakota Access pipeline guards had been trying to excavate it, when hundreds of Native Americans came up on that property and demanded the bulldozers pull back.
Kandi, that was quite a scene, quite a horrific scene.
KANDI MOSSETT: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: But, on that day, the Native Americans who were out there did stop the bulldozers from excavating.
KANDI MOSSETT: That’s right. And it was really women that broke down the fence, tore it down, went out there and jumped in front of the bulldozers, because we physically feel that pain when we see that machine digging. And they did destroy three sacred sites and some gravesites, but we stopped them from destroying more. And it’s important to note that there’s no oil flowing through that pipeline. They actually had damage occur when they dropped their own equipment into the trench and damaged 10 sections of the pipe, stuff that nobody is reporting on. After the camps were cleared, they damaged their own pipeline. So the spirits are still with us. I have a feeling they pushed the equipment into the pipe—into the trench. So…
AMY GOODMAN: So, there you were in North Dakota. Here you are in D.C. Why?
KANDI MOSSETT: I’m here because it’s important to do everything we can do. A march is one thing in the many tools in the toolbox. This is a really good way to come together and say we’re not alone in this movement for jobs, for climate justice. And so we need to do these things to show that, number 45, we don’t agree with your policies. We’re going to be in your face until you listen to the people, the people that want a different way, which is towards renewable energies, small-scale-distributed renewable energies, and to listen to the voice of the people.
AMY GOODMAN: Where are you from?
KANDI MOSSETT: I’m from North Dakota, right in the heart of the Bakken shale oil formation, where they’re fracking us literally to death, because our babies are sick, our grandmas are sick. We’re not going to take it anymore. So we’ve been here drawing that red line of resistance.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re a member of what tribe?
KANDI MOSSETT: Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations.
AMY GOODMAN: I last saw you before Dakota in—well, actually, I saw you in Paris after North Dakota.
KANDI MOSSETT: And I told you about the abuses that have been occurring to our women. And it’s an inextricable link between the rape and the abuse of the Earth, that happens to the women, as well, when these extractive industries come into our communities. It’s very important that people know that. We don’t just speak for the north. We speak for our brothers and sisters to the south. Look at what happened to our sister, Berta. It’s important that we get the message out that it’s not OK for our women to die simply because we want to protect water. And we’re going to continue to stand up and hold our relatives in our hearts and our minds.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re holding up a sign for Berta Cáceres, the Honduran environmental leader, who knew she was on a death list but continued her work, until she was gunned down in her own home.
KANDI MOSSETT: That’s right. And if Berta can do these things and her spirit can live on, there’s no reason that we can’t continue to fight here in this colonized United States. We need to stand strong with our brothers and sisters.
AMY GOODMAN: Had you ever met Berta Cáceres?
KANDI MOSSETT: I never had the pleasure of meeting her in person. It was after that we went to Honduras and that we were able to see her family and friends and learn about her legacy. So, I cry tears that aren’t about sadness, but the joy that her spirit continues to live on and really created strength in a lot of us women.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re wearing a T-shirt that says “Defend the Sacred.”
KANDI MOSSETT: “Defend the Sacred,” because everything that we believe in, that we need as humanity, is sacred—the air, the water and the soil, with which we can’t live without. Common sense dictates: Defend the sacred.
AMY GOODMAN: Who will you be marching with today?
KANDI MOSSETT: I will be marching with my ancestors today and with my 3-year-old daughter Aiyana, who is here, not fully understanding what it’s all about, but it’s really all about her.
AMY GOODMAN: Tom Goldtooth, you’re standing beside Kandi right now. Talk about your activism that has led to this day, April 29th, that it looks like it promises to be one of the hottest April 29ths in Washington, D.C., history.
TOM GOLDTOOTH: I’ve been at the United Nations climate negotiations, and I’ve been at the World Social Forums, and I’ve been in our local communities, really building a movement of consciousness. And this is where it’s coming to, this moment where we’re breaking down those silos that basically capitalism, industrial mindset, has created a divide of people from Mother Earth. And so we have to break that and be able to talk to humanity, that we need to come back to understanding where we’re at right now.
And this president right now represents tyranny. This president represents a system that is old and has to change. And as indigenous peoples, you know, we’ve been talking about this moment. You know, maybe we, as original people of the United States, and our people in Canada, Alaska—maybe it’s time to really exercise our sovereignty and our self-determination, and serve papers on this president to deport him, to deport him from this country, because the laws that he’s representing are not the natural laws that we are taught as Native people, to have respect for the sacredness of water.
That’s why we are here. We are bringing front-line communities who are fighting to keep fossil fuels in the ground. That’s part of our campaign, but not just ours, as indigenous. It’s for all people to come to that consciousness that we have to change a system. We have to move to a new reality. And that reality is part of Mother Earth.
AMY GOODMAN: Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, just as the People’s Climate March was about to begin.