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Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Fracking, Rape, and Resistance

October 13, 2014

From Huffington Post: “This Columbus Day… Time to Break the Silence” October 13, 2014

Today is the International Day of Solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of North and South America, and for good reason.

Columbus, we know now, was a greed-driven and brutal slave-taker who began the process of genocide against the Taino, Carib, and other indigenous peoples.

His men also committed the first documented rapes by white men against women of color in the Americas.  In “Columbus Raped the Redskins… Time to Change the Name,” a team of Truthout writers note:

One of Columbus’ crewmen, Miguel Cuneo, described the scene when Columbus arrived in Hispaniola for a second time, and thousands of Tainos, or what were referred to as Indians, came out to greet his ships.

Cuneo wrote, “When our caravels…were to leave for Spain, we gathered…one thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians…For those who remained, we let it be known [to the Spaniards] in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done.”

Cuneo went on to write that he took his own sex slave, a beautiful teenage girl, who in his own words, “resisted with all her strength,” leaving him with no choice but to, “thrash her mercilessly and rape her.”

….. Columbus eventually started up a global child-sex-slave trade, exporting Indians all around the world.

The trajectory begun by Columbus and his men will take far more than just changing the name of the Washington Redskins’ football team (though that’s a good idea and it’s about time!) to transform.

Respecting the lives of indigenous people right now in North and South America would be a great place to start. It sure hasn’t happened yet.

Fracking Impacts and Resisters Among First Nations

From the beginning of the fight against fracking, many tribal nations in North America have been impacted, have spoken out, and have resisted. To mention briefly just four examples of impacts and resistance, among hundreds:

The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone people living in the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming were among the first to have their drinking water impacted. They were told not to take showers indoors without cracking the window because the risk of fire was so great due to the hydrocarbon content of their post-fracking water.

The Onandaga people have provided leadership in the fight against fracking since at least 2010, and Idle No More began providing full frontal resistance by 2012.

Blackfeet tribal members were impacted by evictions to make way for cheap housing for workers in the Bakken Shale boom by 2012: ““We were not even given a formal 30 day eviction notice and now that we have been kicked out of our home we are currently homeless,” said Heather Youngbird.

And in a dramatic, creative naval blockade using yarn, the Gitga’at Nation expressed their communal commitment to opposing the Northern Gateway Pipeline in “Spirit Bear” territory in British Columbia, last June: “First Nations Oppose Northern Gateway Pipeline: ‘We Will Take Our Fight to the Land, Sea and Courts.”

Rape, Misogyny and Fracking in Pennsylvania

It seems unrelated: in Pennsylvania there seems to be no end to “porngate,” and no end to fracking. But perhaps we can take heart from just how long the struggle against rape, against the enslavement of those who would defend their land, and against ecocide, has been going on. Five hundred and twenty-two years, at least, in the Americas.

The Pennsylvania DEP spokesman under Governor Rendell, William “Tom” Rathbun, pleaded guilty to sexual assault against two minor girls, one of whom had a mental disability, in August 2011. This is the same man who, shale country residents say, lied blatantly about their water contamination cases.

This is the same man who said we’d been “fracking for 60 years and we know what we are doing… ” when I first confronted him in 2010 over the issue of toxic fracking flowback being stored in plastic-lined earthen pits all over Pennsylvania shale country. He seemed to think that I would just believe him if he told me it was mostly salt and water… you know, that I would just relax and enjoy it. Get over it.

With Rathbun behind bars, plenty more misogynists took office under Tom Corbett, whose rise to District Attorney was funded by Chesapeake Energy and whose reign as DA included overt refusals to investigate Sandusky or to investigate porn rings in York and elsewhere.

As a friend of mine, Jim Cummings, put it in a conversation yesterday: “It’s ecofeminism 101: the men who rape the land, also rape women.”

While Pennsylvania politics are not always bumper-sticker simple, in this case it couldn’t be more obvious.

Even more conservative newspapers have noticed the atmosphere of “casual misogyny” in Harrisburg — a misogyny which certainly existed under Rendell’s leadership and before that; but a misogyny which has escalated out of control under fracking- corporation-funded Tom Corbett. While the head of PA DEP under Corbett — Chris Abruzzo, Krancer’s replacement — has resigned as part of the ongoing “porngate” scandal, what hasn’t happened yet is what needs to happen.

The public needs to howl relentlessly for integrity and justice, for an end to the atmosphere of casual misogyny AND for an end to the casual witnessing of the rape of the earth. We need to accept no less than total change in attitude and action from our leaders. This goes far beyond merely partisan politics. We don’t need to replace one old boys’ club with another.

We need bottom-up leadership that stands for justice, transformation, integrity and sustainability.

A basic tenet of feminism is that a feminist is someone who differentiates herself from a doormat.

We got news for Harrisburg: women are not doormats, and neither is our land, water and air a trash can for toxic poisons.

If we get tired in this struggle every once in a while, all we have to do is take a look at those who have been struggling for five hundred twenty-two years already, and get back to it.



  1. October 13, 2014 6:00 pm

    I remember we first connected around resistance to the Columbus Sesquicentennial and the renaming of Delaware Ave. thanks for the shout quote!

  2. October 14, 2014 11:54 am

    The Native people were invaded. Illegal Aliens from Spain came to rape, plunder, and pillage their newly discovered lands. Nothing has changed but the date on the calendar. Now after the native peoples have been incarcerated into reservations, their only source of survival, ” WATER “, is being contaminated. TAR SANDS removal will kill many of the last remaining around the Great Lakes and Mississippi river.

    • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
      October 16, 2014 4:35 pm

      There is a huge struggle around the Tar Sands including strong resistance in both the U.S. and Canada! “…In Nebraska, indigenous leaders and local ranchers have joined forces to try to block the final leg of the Keystone XL pipeline slated to bring carbon-dirty tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast.” That’s from an October 14th Grist article, “Money, Death and Danger in North Dakota’s Fracking Capital” and here is the link to the Grist article “
      That’s really key, don’t you think, this solidarity? Sometimes when bonds of real solidarity are enacted — as with ranchers and indigenous people joining together to fight a common enemy like XL; or as happened years ago in Wisconsin when whites joined Anishinabe people defending their right to traditional spear-fishing practices — also defending the walleye fish against larger predators, i.e. corporations, and raising consciousness in the process — we make history and we change things for the better.
      For me, that is the whole point of no longer celebrating Columbus Day at all but instead celebrating “International Day of Solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of North and South America.” Here is the article about ranchers, Native Americans and city dwellers in Nebraska coming together to resist the Keystone XL at a “Harvest the Hope” concert this past Saturday: “Nebraskans Raise their Voices In Fight Against Keystone XL Pipeline” from New York Times:

  3. Elyssa permalink
    October 17, 2014 9:19 pm

    “The public needs to howl relentlessly for integrity and justice, for an end to the atmosphere of casual misogyny AND for an end to the casual witnessing of the rape of the earth. We need to accept no less than total change in attitude and action from our leaders. This goes far beyond merely partisan politics. We don’t need to replace one old boys’ club with another.”

    Howwwwwwwl indeed! Thank you for this post… Acknowledging the interconnection between violent actions against our earth’s body and the violence committed every day on women’s bodies (especially women of color and First People) is wise and, sadly, incredibly brave.

    I’ve heard strong-hearted-environmentalists shy away (to put it mildly) from the rape comparison and I’ve heard strong-hearted-feminists shy away from calling our brutal violation of the earth ‘rape’ (often, their argument is that it delegitimizes ‘actual rape’). Both perspectives are victim to a system dominated by misogyny so casual that the mere mention of rape is automatically radical. The shallowest research into rape prevalence shows that this is complete insanity! Suddenly pitted against each other, we find ourselves paranoid and isolated even though we share the most common of our human experience (we live on a planet that is systematically being violated) and we share the experience that someone raped or otherwise sexually assaulted us. Even if we’re one of the lucky ones who has never had our body intimately violated against our will, then we definitely know someone who is a victim of gender/sexuality-based violence. Someone we care for. Someone we love.

    Being told that we can’t speak about rape and that we can’t acknowledge the interconnectivity of violent dominance (on all levels) is a very effective way to silence us and isolate potential allies from one another, fragmented by fear. In systematic rape culture, it is hard to step up and say: “Yes, this is real. Yes, I have contributed to it. Yes, I understand that rape is not the only way to silence women. Now that I know, I am ready to be a true ally: I am ready to listen.”

    Internalized misogyny is another thing we all share. No, it’s not easy to confront. Don’t you like a challenge???…….Howl!

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