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Histories at the Intersection of Indigenous Politics and Environmental Activism

Thu, April 11, 8:30 to 10:00am, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Champaign

Session Submission Type: Panel


Protests against the Dakota Access and Trans Moutain pipelines in the United States and Canada; land use conflicts in Brazil’s Amazon; opposition to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam in Honduras that led to the death of Berta Cáceres; each of these highlight the significant overlap between Indigenous political struggles and environmental activism in the global present. Building on this year’s theme of “Using Environmental History: Rewards and Risks,” our panel brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars to assess how historical perspectives can illuminate the potential benefits and risks that arise at the intersection of indigenous politics and environmental activism. The panellists consider examples from late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century Canada with particular attention to hydroelectric development and its ecological consequences. Papers on this panel by Sims and Piper will examine Indigenous community strategies and non-Indigenous environmentalist media, respectively, to assess how alliances between Indigenous and environmental activists were necessarily strategic and reflected the imbalances of power and cultural distance that were the legacies of settler and resource colonialism. Luby, Bradford, and Mehltretter highlight the value of historical perspectives in informing community-based and interdisciplinary research that works towards improved environmental futures, where ecologies thrive because they are rooted in an Indigenous cultural past. With commentary from Rosalyn LaPier, a noted environmental justice advocate, this panel aims to provide the foundation for a wider discussion of how history can inform current efforts at the intersection of Indigenous and environmental politics, and how historians can most effectively interpret past collaboration and contestation between Indigenous struggles for autonomy and environmental activism.

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