The Rights of Nature Movement in Indian Country and Beyond: From Grassroots to Mainstream
The “Rights of Nature” movement seeks to protect rivers, mountains, and entire ecosystems and the life forms supported within them by recognizing and enshrining their rights in formal legal codes and constitutions. This legal framework offers a radically different worldview from current legal premises. Instead of being seen as property, nature as a whole and its various components would be formally recognized to have inherent rights to exist, persist, flourish and evolve, and these would be protected under the law. For over 15 years, the Rights of Nature movement has caught fire across the U.S. and the rest of the world in some of the most and least expected places, from tribal lands to “progressive” cities, to coal country, to Latin American nations. In this session, activist attorneys leading the movement in Indian Country and beyond give an update on their successes and the challenges ahead. With: Frank Bibeau; Thomas Linzey; Samantha Skenandore. Moderated by Alexis Bunten.
This talk was delivered at the 2022 Bioneers Conference.
Frank Bibeau, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, is an activist and tribal attorney who works extensively on Chippewa treaty and civil rights, sovereignty and water protection, including by serving as Executive Director for the 1855 Treaty Authority, representing the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and Honor the Earth (a Native-led, nonprofit environmental protection group), and litigating to stop Enbridge’s notorious Line 3 crude oil pipeline in Minnesota.
Thomas Alan Linzey, Esq. is Senior Legal Counsel for the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights (CDER), an organization committed to advancing the legal rights of nature and environmental rights globally. Co-founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), Linzey is widely recognized as the founder of the contemporary “Community Rights” and “Rights of Nature” movements. He co-founded the Daniel Pennock Democracy School, which has trained over 5,000 lawyers, activists, and municipal officials, and is the author or co-author of several books, including: Be The Change: How to Get What You Want in Your Community; We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States; and the forthcoming Modern American Democracy and Other Fairy Tales.
Samantha Skenandore (Ho-Chunk/Oneida), Attorney/Of-Counsel at Quarles & Brady LLP, has vast knowledge and experience in working on matters involving on both federal Indian law and tribal law. Her extensive previous experience includes serving as a Tribal Attorney for the Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Justice and clerking for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Indian Resources Section. She currently advises tribal and corporate clients in tribal governance, governmental affairs, corporate transactions, real estate, labor issues and litigation. Samantha represents clients before members of Congress, congressional committees and agencies through federal lobbying services.
Alexis Bunten, Ph.D., (Aleut/Yup’ik), Co-Director of Bioneers’ Indigeneity Program, has been a researcher, media-maker, manager, consultant, and curriculum developer for organizations including the Sealaska Heritage Institute, Alaska Native Heritage Center, and the FrameWorks Institute. She has published widely about Indigenous and environmental issues, and is the author of So, how long have you been Native?: Life as an Alaska Native Tour Guide.