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Each Wednesday you will turn in a reflection memo, with your personal reactions to the course material. You should use this exerc

Each Wednesday you will turn in a reflection memo, with your personal reactions to the course material. You should use this exerc

Each Wednesday you will turn in a reflection memo, with your personal reactions to the course material. You should use this exercise as an opportunity to integrate course material with your own life and experiences, and for you to give me feedback on how the course is going for you. The content of the memos should focus on both the course material and your experiences but are otherwise open to you. For example, you might discuss your reaction to class discussions, films, lectures, or readings, report on an event in your life or conversations you’ve had with friends and family about course material. These are not reading or lecture summaries. Your reflection memos should be no less than a paragraph but no more than a page.

Environment and Society: Advances in Research 9 (2018): 1–5 © Berghahn Books



Introduction Indigenous Resurgence, Decolonization,

and Movements for Environmental Justice

Jaskiran Dhillon

� ABSTRACT: Th is volume of Environment and Society aims to set forth a theoretical and discursive interruption of the dominant, mainstream environmental justice move- ment by reframing issues of climate change and environmental degradation through an anticolonial lens. Specifi cally, the writers for this volume are invested in positioning environmental justice within historical, social, political, and economic contexts and larger structures of power that foreground the relationships among settler colonialism, nature, and planetary devastation.

� KEYWORDS: climate change, environment, Indigenous, Indigenous knowledge, resistance, social movements

In multiple sites across the world, Indigenous peoples are leading political and social move- ments for environmental justice. In Indigenous North America, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe spearheaded the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline and historic environmental damage to the Missouri River. Indigenous Newar communities in Nepal have been protesting the Fast Track Road Project and other destructive development projects. Responses to climate change in Peru are also being conceptualized and enacted by Indigenous youth who are on the front lines of the latest forms of colonial devastation. Th ese are only a few examples of the ways in which Indigenous peoples are challenging structures of contemporary global capitalism, standing up and speaking out to protect the land, water, and air from further contamination and ruination, and embodying long-standing forms of relationality and kinship that counter West- ern epistemologies of human/nature dualism. Indigenous peoples are mapping the contours of alternative modes of social, political, and economic organization that speak to the past, present, and the future—catapulting us into a moment of critical, radical refl ection about the substantive scope and limitations of “mainstream environmentalism.”1 Notably, they are demanding that this movement be accountable, fi rst and foremost, to the struggle for Native liberation.

Within the mainstream environmental justice movement, the knowledge and social prac- tices of Indigenous communities have sparked considerable attention. Indeed, in the wake of a planet wide movement riddled with idioms about “saving our home,” there has been a tidal wave of interest in Indigenous knowledge(s) about the land, water, and sky—a desire to “capture and store” the intergenerational wisdom that speaks to the unpredictable path lying ahead. Littered

2 � Jaskiran Dhillon

throughout academic writing, climate justice protests, and climate science reports is a host of references to the importance of harnessing Indigenous knowledge systems in the service of global sustainability. As a case in point, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sum- mary report for 2014 asserts: “Indigenous, local, and traditional knowledge systems and prac- tices, including indigenous peoples’ holistic view of community and environment, are a major resource for adapting to climate change, but these have not been used consistently in existing adaptation eff orts. Integrating such forms of knowledge with existing practices increases the eff ectiveness of adaptation” (IPCC 2014: 26, emphasis added). More recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former US President Barack Obama issued a joint statement on cli- mate, energy, and Arctic leadership that makes an explicit reference to Indigenous science and traditional knowledge by stating that “Canada and the US are committed to collaborating with Indigenous and Arctic governments, leaders, and communities to more broadly and respect- fully include Indigenous science and traditional knowledge into decision making, including environmental assessments, resource management, and advancing our understanding of cli- mate change and how best to manage its eff ect” (PMO 2016, emphasis added). Particularly note- worthy within both these frames is the vernacular of integration and inclusion that underlies the broader impetus for seeking Indigenous knowledge.

While at fi rst glance these inclusionary politics could be considered a move in the right direction—the “integration” of Indigenous knowledge as something to be used in the interests of global recovery from environmental crisis—it merits a deeper and more nuanced reading. Pushing us to consider the problematics associated with state-driven “discovery” of Indige- nous knowledge, Deborah McGregor highlights the way in which Indigenous knowledge of the environment is derived through a living process that stems from Indigenous relationships to “Creation.” It is produced through a body of ancient thought, experience, and action—gen- erated by the things that one does rather than something that one simply knows. She argues: “Th e “natural world,” “environment,” or “Creation” are essential parts of Indigenous knowl- edge. Indigenous knowledge is not just “knowledge” per se. It is the lives lived by people and their particular relationship with Creation” (2004: 390). From McGregor’s perspective, Indig- enous knowledge is not a noun; it is not a commodity or product that can be drawn upon as a last-ditch eff ort to be integrated into a battalion of adaptive solutions to save us all. To acquire this knowledge means entirely shift ing our current patterns of living in the every day: it is cumulative and dynamic, adaptive and ancestral, and it is produced in a collective process that is fundamentally centered on the way one relates. Mishuana Goeman furthers this point when she speaks of the complexity, history, and political vitality in a storied land—a land that literally and fi guratively acts as a placeholder that moves through time and situates Indigenous knowledges. “Indigenous scholars,” Goeman writes, “must continue to think of space or the function of land as more than a site upon which humans make history or as a location that accumulates history” (2008: 24).

We might ask, then, whose interests are being served by attempts to extract and distill bits and pieces of Indigenous knowledge to work in the service of climate recovery? What is lost in this process of “integration” when it is not occurring in conjunction with moves toward decolonization that center the question of colonization and its impacts, when there is no clear intention to understand how the colonial spatial restructuring of the land has aff ected Indig- enous relationships to land? Despite the fi xation on Indigenous knowledge systems, it seems, limited attempts have been made to theorize how conquest and persistent settler colonial vio- lence necessarily factor into debates over the climate crisis and environmental injustice more generally—this, despite the creation of territories of material and psychic abandonment largely fueled by white settlers and “settlement.” Critical questions need to be asked: How are Indig-

Introduction � 3

enous political demands for decolonization taken up within the broader scope of impending planetary dystopia? How might “environmental justice” work to (re)inscribe hegemonies of settler colonial power by foregrounding settler interests? In a similar vein, Zoe Todd (2016) asks: “What does it mean to have a reciprocal discourse on catastrophic end times and apoca- lyptic environmental change in a place where, over the last 500 years, Indigenous peoples faced (and face) the end of the worlds with the violent incursion of colonial ideologies and actions? What does it mean to hold, in simultaneous tension, stories of the Anthropocene in the past, present, and future?”

To address these lines of inquiry, this volume of Environment and Society aims to set forth a theoretical and discursive interruption of the dominant, mainstream environmental justice movement by reframing issues of climate change and environmental degradation through an anticolonial lens. Specifi cally, the writers for this volume are invested in positioning environ- mental justice within historical, social, political, and economic contexts and larger structures of power that foreground the relationships among settler colonialism, nature, and planetary devastation. Th e nine critical appraisals presented here also move across a range of sociopo- litical spaces and realities (ranging from site-specifi c resistance eff orts to broader theoretical discussions) and thus carry signifi cant import when translated to an anticolonial deconstruc- tion of the underlying politics and ideologies inherent to the dominant environmental justice movement as a whole. By off ering this range of perspectives, this volume reaches to: (1) illumi- nate how mainstream environmental justice politics are inherently preoccupied with the main- tenance of settler state sovereignty and settler futurity; (2) showcase how Indigenous struggles to protect and defend the land, water, and air are embedded within Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies that fundamentally challenge settler domination over nature and are inextrica- bly linked to advancing decolonization; and (3) raise important questions about solidarity and politicized allyship with Indigenous communities as they engage in resistance eff orts to protect their homelands and assert political claims for self-determination.

Th e issue opens with “Mino-Mnaamodzawin: Achieving Indigenous Environmental Justice in Canada,” by Deborah McGregor. Th e article explores the potential for advancing environ- mental justice (EJ) theory and practice by engaging with Indigenous intellectual traditions. In particular, McGregor highlights the reemergence of the philosophy referred to by the Anishi- naabe as mino-mnaamodzawin (“living well” or the “good life”). Common to numerous Indig- enous epistemologies, this philosophy considers the critical importance of mutually respectful and benefi cial relationships not only among peoples but among all relations.

Next, in “Decolonizing Development in Diné Bikeyah: Resource Extraction, Anti-capitalism, and Relational Futures,” Melanie Yazzie employs an Indigenous feminist perspective to take us to the homelands of the Navajo Nation, where resisters are fi ghting “natural resource” extraction through anti-capitalist and antidevelopment politics. Yazzie deft ly argues that development is not only a violent modality of capitalism but, in its connection to resource extraction, is also a violent form of extractivism that seeks to kill Diné life. Several concerns raised by Yazzie are mirrored in Anne Spice’s “Fighting Invasive Infrastructure: Indigenous Relations against Pipe- lines” in which pipeline politics take center stage. Spice’s article tracks how the state discourse of “critical infrastructure” naturalizes the environmental destruction wrought by the oil and gas industry while criminalizing Indigenous resistance.

Questions of infrastructure and development are, of course, tied to particular conceptual- izations of land and human relationships to and with it. In their article, “Unsettling the Land: Indigeneity, Ontology, and Hybridity in Settler Colonialism,” Paul Burnow, Samara Brock, and Michael R. Dove examine diff erent ontologies of land in settler colonialism and Indigenous movements for decolonization and environmental justice. “Hunting for Justice: An Indigenous

4 � Jaskiran Dhillon

Critique of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation,” by Lauren Eichler and David Baumeister, complements this critical engagement with land ontologies by problematizing wildlife conservation policies and related hunting regulations that are antithetical to Indig- enous views, interrupt Indigenous lifeways, and contribute to the destruction of Indigenous identity.

Moving to a critical analysis of symbolic power within the mainstream environmental justice movement, Rebekah Sinclair’s “Righting Names: Th e Importance of Native American Philoso- phies of Naming for Environmental Justice” explores the politics and history of naming places, landmarks, environments, and species. To counter long-standing colonial practices of naming, Sinclair points toward several principles of Indigenous naming and considers how Native names refl ect relational ontologies and are thus central components in creating Indigenous communi- ties, which include both human and nonhuman agents.

Tracing the problematics of colonial political power, “Damaging Environments: Land, Settler Colonialism, and Security for Indigenous Peoples” by Wilfrid Greaves theorizes why Indige- nous peoples’ security claims fail to be accepted by government authorities and/or incorporated into the security policies and practices of settler states. By engaging the concepts of securiti- zation and ontological security, Wilfrid explicates how Indigenous peoples are blocked from “speaking” security to the state.

In “Settler Colonialism, Ecology, and Environmental Injustice,” Kyle Whyte circles back to a crucial and critical appraisal of settler colonialism as it is intertwined directly with environ- mental justice. Whyte characterizes settler colonialism as ecological domination, as a form of governance committing environmental injustice against Indigenous peoples and other groups. Focusing on the context of Indigenous peoples’ facing domination in the United States, this article also investigates, philosophically, one dimension of how settler colonialism commits environmental injustice.

Th e volume concludes with an article by Joe Curnow and Anjai Helferty entitled “Con- tradictions of Solidarity: Whiteness, Settler Coloniality, and the Mainstream Environmental Movement.” Here, Curnow and Helferty bring forth essential questions about the racialized and colonial underpinnings of mainstream environmentalism and highlight implications of this history for solidarity work and politicized allyship with Indigenous nations.

Taken together, these articles off er a powerful anticolonial counterscript to the assumptions and underlying political ideologies of the mainstream environmental justice movement. Th ey remind us of the fundamental importance of placing Indigenous politics, histories, and ontolo- gies at the center of our social movements for environmental justice. And they make clear that contemporary manifestations of colonial violence are deeply interconnected with environmen- tal violence. Th e time for colonial removal, as these authors collectively argue, is right now.

� JASKIRAN DHILLON is an anti-colonial scholar and organizer who grew up on Treaty Six Cree Territory in Canada. Her work has been published in Th e Guardian, Cultural Anthropol- ogy, Social Texts, Truthout, Public Seminar, Feminist Formations, and Decolonization among other venues. Her fi rst book, Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Pol- itics of Intervention (2017), provides a critical, ethnographic account of state interventions in the lives of urban Indigenous youth. Her new research focuses on developing an anti- colonial critique of the environmental justice movement. She is an Associate Professor of Global Studies and Anthropology at Th e New School in New York City.

Email: [email protected]

Introduction � 5


1. For an excellent synopsis of “mainstream environmentalism,” see West and Brockington (2012: 1–3).


Goeman, Mishuana. 2008. “From Place to Territories and Back Again.” International Journal of Critical

Indigenous Studies 1 (1): 23–34.

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2014. “Summary Report for Policymakers,” in

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptations, and Vulnerability, 1–32.


McGregor, Deborah. 2004. “Coming Full Circle: Indigenous Knowledge, Environment, and our Future.”

American Indian Quarterly 28 (3): 385–410.

PMO (Offi ce of the Prime Minister). 2016. “U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic

Leadership.” 10 March.


Todd, Zoe. 2016. “Relationships.” Cultural Anthropology, 21 July. eldsights/799-


West, Paige, and Dan Brockington. 2012. “Introduction: Capitalism and the Environment.” Environment

and Society 3: 1–3.

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  • Introduction: Indigenous Resurgence, Decolonization, and Movements for Environmental Justice


RCCS Annual Review A selection from the Portuguese journal Revista Crítica

de Ciências Sociais

6 | 2014

Issue no. 6

Environmental Colonialism, Criminalization and Resistance: Puerto Rican Mobilizations for Environmental Justice in the 21st Century

José M. Atiles-Osoria

Translator: Karen Bennett

Electronic version

URL: DOI: 10.4000/rccsar.524 ISSN: 1647-3175


Centro de Estudos Sociais da Universidade de Coimbra

Electronic reference

José M. Atiles-Osoria, « Environmental Colonialism, Criminalization and Resistance: Puerto Rican Mobilizations for Environmental Justice in the 21st Century », RCCS Annual Review [Online], 6 | 2014, Online since 01 October 2014, connection on 30 April 2019. URL : rccsar/524 ; DOI : 10.4000/rccsar.524


RCCS Annual Review, 6, October 2014: 3-21


José M. Atiles-Osoria Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal Environmental Colonialism, Criminalization and Resistance: Puerto Rican Mobilizations for

Environmental Justice in the 21 st


Struggles for environmental justice have become a fundamental part of Puerto Rican sociopolitical and anticolonial mobilizations since the mid-twentieth century. In this context, and paying particular attention to the criminalization processes used by the United States in the post 9/11 era, the article develops three lines of analysis: 1) a reflection on environmental colonialism in the context of Puerto Rico; 2) an analysis of the mechanisms of criminalization and repression developed by the governments of the US and Puerto Rico; 3) a review of the Puerto Rican socio-environmental conflicts between 1999 and 2012. The discussion of these points shows the close connection between Puerto Rican environmental and anti-colonial movements, as well as the mechanisms of repression and criminalization deployed against them.

Keywords: anti-colonialism; environmental colonialism; environmental justice; Puerto Rico; repression.

Since the 1990s, movements for environmental justice have gradually acquired a central role

in the Puerto Rican sociopolitical imagination. This was the result of various processes to

raise awareness and mobilize support for environmental protection that took place between

the 1960s and 2012. Following the pioneering work of Concepción (1988, 1995), Baver

(2006) and Valdés (2006) on the environmental struggles in Puerto Rico (PR), the concept of

environmental justice is understood in this article as a category that groups together various

claims and movements campaigning on issues such as environmental protection, the

stoppage of contaminating practices and environmental decontamination, amongst other

demands. These authors agree that, since the 1960s, a discourse on environmental justice

has developed in PR, which a e ead i te s of ights to a safe e i o e t that is

free from contamination and guarantees the wellbeing of communities. As will be shown in

this article, this ight has been vindicated using various strategies, though the most

significant have involved legal movements and forms of social protest. The governments of

the United States of America (US) and PR have generally been considered responsible for

guaranteeing those rights. Thus, I consider that, within a colonial context such as that of PR,

which experiences environmental colonialism, the o ept of e i o e tal justi e

operates as an explanatory category for a range of different struggles by socioenvironmental

* Article published in RCCS 100 (May 2013).

RCCS Annual Review, 6, October 2014 Environmental Colonialism, Criminalization and Resistance


movements. However, it should be pointed out that the concept is used somewhat

theoretically, and that the socioenvironmental movements may employ other categories to

describe their mobilizations. That is to say, most of the movements do not consider

themselves to be movements for environmental justice, but rather define their struggles in

terms of more concrete demands (e.g., environmental struggles, struggles against

contamination, neighbourhood platforms to confront a particular problem, etc.). Thus, the

o ept of e i o e tal justi e ill e used i this a ti le as a theo eti al atego that

aims to group together these diverse movements and struggles.

These mobilizations are, for their part, the result of broader and more complex processes

of struggle for the decolonization of PR. This can be appreciated when it is recognised that,

as Mattei and Nader (2008) point out, one of the primary manifestations of colonialism is

the exploitation of the te ito s natural and mineral resources, the extraction of its wealth

and plundering of its material, cultural and environmental resources. Thus, the struggles for

the decolonization of PR and the movements for environmental justice cannot be

understood independently, but have to be studied within a common historical framework.

In the wake of these mobilizations for environmental justice and for the decolonization of

PR, the governments of the US and PR have deployed various mechanisms of repression and

criminalization. Throughout the history of the environmental conflicts in PR, different

repressive strategies have been used. Between the 1960s and 1990, repressive mechanisms

were initially deployed to halt the advance of the anticolonial movements. Then, after 11

September 2001 (9/11) and the passing of the Patriot Act, the repressive measures and laws

deployed have been specifically designed to deter and delegitimize Puerto Rican

socioenvironmental movements.

This article focuses on socioenvironmental movements and criminalization processes

used in PR between 1999 and 2012. It is divided into three sections: the first section will

contextualize the colonial case of PR and discuss the concept of environmental colonialism

and its sociopolitical and legal implications; the second section will show the various

repression and criminalization mechanisms used by the governments of the US and PR

against socioenvironmental movements; and finally, the third section will focus on some

Puerto Rican socioenvironmental movements that appeared between 1999 and 2012. Thus,

the article aims to describe, firstly, the relationship between the anticolonial and

RCCS Annual Review, 6, October 2014 Environmental Colonialism, Criminalization and Resistance


environmental struggles; and secondly, the development of the repression and

criminalization of socioenvironmental protest in the colonial context of PR.

1. Environmental colonialism in Puerto Rico

PR is a Caribbean archipelago consisting of the Isla Grande, the island municipalities of

Vieques and Culebra and a series of smaller islands. In environmental terms, PR enjoys great

biodiversity, important nature and mineral reserves, reserves of drinking water and fertile

soils. This fact, combined with its strategic geopolitical position in the Caribbean Sea, made it

a key interest for colonisers, leading to over 500 years of colonial domination. For the last

114 years (1898 to 2012), it has been under US control, and this has had significant effects

on the economic, environmental, sociopolitical and legal levels.

In economic terms, the country has been unable to develop its own economic agenda, as

it has traditionally depended upon the interests of the colonizing agent. This dependency is

manifest in the various economic models that have been imposed over the last hundred

years, none of which have ever managed to achieve full yield. Examples are the radical

economic transformations that occurred in the first decades of the 20 th

century, when the

country passed from what was predominantly subsistence farming to a sugar cane

monoculture. Then, from 1940, the industrialization by invitation model, better known as

Operation Bootstrap (Baver, 1993; Berman, 1996; Dietz, 1989), was implemented,

establishing, amongst others, textile industries and oil refineries. The 1970s saw a new

economic transition with the promotion of the pharmaceutical and electronic industries.

Then, in the s, the isla d s e o o i odel e a e p edo i a tl post-industrial,

based on consumption and service industries, which led to the underdevelopment of

agriculture and industry, and/or the abandonment of all the previous economic models,

except the highly contaminating pharmaceutical and electronic industries.

In accordance with its economic (under)development, the US initiated a process of

militarization of PR from 1940. This process, which extended throughout the Caribbean

(García & Vega, 2002), involved the expropriation of numerous PR territories to be used for

military bases, military exercises and the storage of armaments (Barreto, 2002; McCaffrey,

2006). Militarization led to a surge in various sociopolitical movements for the devolution of

the expropriated lands and for the halting of military practices, particularly in the case of the

island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra (Baver, 2006; Berman, 2002).

RCCS Annual Review, 6, October 2014 Environmental Colonialism, Criminalization and Resistance


The sociopolitical and legal effects of American colonionialism have been diverse. In the

legal-politi al sphe e, P‘ s olo ial condition a e u de stood i te s of a state of

e eptio (Atiles-Osoria, 2012), i.e., the constitution of a space of legal indetermination

where certain constitutional rights are applied, but whose citizens do not enjoy all of them.

One paradigmatic example is citizenship: even though American citizenship was extended to

Puerto Ricans in 1917, 1 as long as they lived in PR, they were not accorded rights such as the

right to vote in the election for the representatives of Congress and the president of the US.

The non-recognition of these rights is based on P‘ s status under the Territorial Clause2 of

the US Constitution, and on two central arguments developed from the so-called the Insular

Cases 3 : that which establishes that P‘ belongs to the US, but is not part of it, thereby

setting up a relationship of ownership and/or a mercantile view of the colonial domination

of PR; and, secondly, the premise that Puerto Ricans are foreign citizens in the domestic

sense. Both arguments have led to the administration of this territory through the denial of

constitutional rights and guarantees, grounded in various legal loopholes (ibidem).

This legal and political indeterminacy has led to the imposition of particular political

categories on this territory, and also to a high level of social conflict. The paradigmatic

example was the constitution of the Comonwealth of PR or the Estado Libre Asociado de PR

(ELA) 4 in 1952. This legal loophole led to the persistence of its colonial status with the

consent of much of the country, the international community and, in particular, the United

Nations Organization (UN). As for social conflict, this is reflected in the sociopolitical

polarization between the pro-annexation and pro-status q

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