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Indigenous leaders occupy the Bureau of Indian Affairs

A group of Indigenous leaders and allies on Wednesday occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs. (Photo: Twitter/Jennifer K. Falcon)

In Defense of Mother Earth, Indigenous Leaders Occupy Bureau of Indian Affairs

"We will no longer allow the U.S. government to separate us from our relationship to the sacred knowledge of Mother Earth and all who depend on her."

Andrea Germanos

Declaring that "another world is possible," a group of Indigenous leaders on Thursday occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.—the first time such an action has taken place in roughly 50 years.

According to a statement from the Indigenous Environmental Network, 55 people were arrested and taken away to D.C. Metro police stations.

Bureau of Indian Affairs - People vs Fossil Fuels - Day 4

At least two activists were tased by the police, organizers said. Police also assaulted one person with Indigenous media and broke their equipment, they added.

The group of at least 50 activists taking part in the action, made up of Indigenous leaders and their allies, issued a statement with a series of demands for President Joe Biden, including for him to ban any new oil, gas, or other extractive industry leases on public lands.

"We will no longer allow the U.S. government to separate us from our relationship to the sacred knowledge of Mother Earth and all who depend on her," said the group. "Her songs have no end, so we must continue the unfinished work of our ancestors who have walked on before us. Because of colonization, our mission has been passed on generation after generation—to protect the sacred. Just as those who walked before us, we continue their song and rise for our youth, for the land, and for the water."

"Politicians do not take care of us," they added. "Presidents will break their promises, but Mother Earth has always given us what we need to thrive. We will not back down until our natural balance is restored."

In addition to the group inside, video shared on social media shows a crowd of supporters outside the building.

The group issued 14 sweeping demands to Biden. From their statement:

  • Abolition of the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
  • Restoration of 110 million acres (450,000 km2) of land taken away from native nations;
  • Bring home our children buried at your residential schools;
  • Restoration of treaty-making (ended by Congress in 1871);
  • Establishment of a treaty commission to make new treaties (with sovereign native nations);
  • Land back;
  • Water back;
  • Honor the treaties;
  • No new leases for oil and gas or extractive industry on public lands;
  • Free, prior, and informed consent;
  • Reclaim and affirm health, housing, employment, economic development, and education for all Indigenous people;
  • Restoration of terminated rights;
  • Repeal of state jurisdiction on native nations; and
  • Federal protection for offenses against Indians.

The action comes on the fourth day of the People Vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization, which is urging Biden to make good on his climate campaign pledges.

This article has been updated from an earlier version.

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