Bioneers Partners with Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund on Rights of Nature in Indigenous Communities

In the shadow of the illegitimate approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the escalating corporate assault against Indigenous lands and rights, Bioneers is honored to announce our landmark collaboration with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Together, we will introduce innovative legal strategies to Native American community partners in a unique position to lead our collective fight for the Rights of Nature.

After learning about CELDF’s current work with the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin to create a Rights of Nature legal framework, Bioneers saw a crucial strategic opportunity. Bioneers secured the resources to support CELDF, specifically enabling the development of this unique partnership initiative.

The idea of Rights of Nature reflects a fundamentally Indigenous worldview of inter-being, kinship and responsibility to Mother Earth. Marrying a Western legal framework to that worldview can be a powerful tool to protect the land, to shift people’s consciousness, and ultimately to transform the law. Check out the powerful 2016 Bioneers keynote by CELDF’s Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil, which includes their work on Rights of Nature.

Since our inception in 1990, Bioneers has honored Indigenous knowledge and rights, serving as a key communications platform and networking hub for Indigenous peoples. Members of over 90 Tribal nations participated in the 2016 Bioneers conference. Our Indigenous Forum has become a trusted and unique cross-cultural space both for Native Peoples and non-Native allies to connect, spread knowledge and solutions, and act together for common goals.

Our Indigeneity Program and CELDF will work side by side to provide trainings and toolkits to Indigenous organizations that express a desire to institute Rights of Nature in their communities. As Thomas Linzey puts it, “There hasn’t been an environmental movement in the United States because nature has no rights. Movements are about taking what was previously property and transforming that property into a rights-bearing entity.” In this framework, citizens are legally empowered to act as trustees on behalf of animals, rivers, ecosystems and nature itself.

CELDF has already helped more than three dozen US communities put Rights of Nature into law. The largest to date is Pittsburgh, whose Rights of Nature ordinance has prevented fracking inside the city limits because it violates the fundamental rights of natural communities to live, to exist, thrive and evolve.

Bioneers and CELDF previously played a key role in helping bring Rights of Nature into the Ecuadorian Constitution – the first national constitution to do so. Through a daisy chain of Bioneers connections, our friends at the Pachamama Alliance brought Mari and Thomas to Ecuador to assist in writing that historic legal framework.

We are immensely grateful to our many Indigenous allies and friends who will participate in this landmark initiative, and to CELDF for its clear vision, skillfulness and courage to challenge the corporate state on behalf of life, people and all beings.

We’ll keep you posted as developments unfold. Your generous support makes this work possible. Now is the time to act. The world is at stake. Thank goodness the Bioneers community of leadership exists to meet this transformational moment.

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