Kurdish women and their supporters held a vigil outside UK parliament today to mark the 3rd anniversary of ISIS genocidal attack on the Ezidis of Sinjar. Photo: Mark Campbell/Facebook
Marking three years since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) attacked the Yazidis in Syria, a United Nations-mandated inquiry has called for justice and rescue plans.
“The Commission of Inquiry calls on the international community to recognize the crime of genocide being committed by ISIL against the Yazidis and to undertake steps to refer the situation to justice,” said the expert panel in a statement marking the third anniversary of ISIL’s attack on the Yazidis. Continue reading →
In just the ten days following the 2016 election, there were 867 hate incidents reported in the US. Graphic: SPLC
Last Wednesday, July 19, was something of a busy news day. There was word North Korea was making preparations for yet another provocative missile test. The Supreme Court, in its latest ruling in the controversial travel ban case, said that people from the six largely Muslim countries covered by the immigration enforcement action could enter the U.S. if they had a grandparent here, refusing to overturn a ruling that grandparents qualified as “bona fide relatives.” And then, late in the day, President Donald Trump gave a remarkable interview to The New York Times, one that, among other things, laid into Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The day also produced its share of what, sadly, has come to qualify as routine news: A Muslim organization in Sacramento, California, received a package in the mail that included a Koran in a tub of lard; police in Boise, Idaho, identified a teenage boy as the person likely responsible for scratching racist words on a car; in Lansing, Michigan, police launched a search for a suspect in the case of an assault against a Hispanic man. The victim had been found with a note indicating his attacker had been motivated by racial animus. Continue reading →
At least three Palestinians reportedly have been killed by gunfire, and more than a hundred injured, in clashes with Israeli forces on Friday, during large-scale protests against enhanced security measures at the Al-Aqsa mosque, according to reports from the Ma’an News Agency and Al-Jazeera.
“An Israeli settler killed an 18-year-old Palestinian man in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood,” Al-Jazeera reports. Hospital officials confirmed a second Palestinian was killed by live fire during the demonstrations after Friday prayer, and a third man died during clashes in the West Bank. Continue reading →
The Colorado River, one of the longest rivers in the United States, is gradually shrinking. This is partly a result of overuse by municipalities and seasonal drought. The other reason is global warming.
The decline in the river reservoir will have serious implications for large U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles, that depend on the Colorado River as their water source. In addition, this will also have an impact on the Native American tribes who view the Colorado River as sacred to their religions.
As Ka-Voka Jackson, a member of the Hualapai tribe and a graduate student working to address climate change on the Colorado River and restoring native plant species along its banks, stated,
“The Colorado River is so sacred not just to my tribe, but to so many others.”
As a scholar of Native American religions and the environment, I understand how indigenous people’s religions and sacred places are closely tied to their landscape. For the past 100 years, indigenous peoples have been forced to adapt to changes in their environments and modify their religious rituals in the United States. The U.S. government made certain Native American religious practices illegal in the 19th and early 20th century. Although these policies have since been rescinded, they led to changes in many indigenous practices.
Global warming, however, is different. The question is whether indigenous people will be able to adapt their beliefs all over again due to the impact of global warming on the natural world.
Adapting to change
The Blackfeet tribe in Montana brought changes in their relationship with the natural world as a result of the policies of the U.S. government from the 1880s to the 1930s.
For example, the Blackfeet purposefully moved religious ceremonies from one time on their liturgical calendar to completely different times to avoid the U.S. government penalizing native people for dancing or participating in religious ceremonies.
The Blackfeet moved their annual O’kan, or sundance festival, from late summer (usually held at the end of August) to the Fourth of July celebration. They avoided U.S. government punishment by masking their ceremonies within state-sanctioned public events.
Policies related to the mining of natural resources and damming of rivers on indigenous lands have also led to changes in Native Americans’ religious practices.
Historian David R. M. Beckinterviewed elders and researched how the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin adapted to the loss of their sacred fish, the sturgeon, after a paper mill built a dam across the Wolf River.
The sturgeon disappeared after the dam was built in 1892, because they could no longer swim upstream to spawn. For over 100 years, the Menominee tribal members continued to pray and conduct their annual “returning of the sturgeon” ceremony in the spring – even though there were no more sturgeon in the river. The Menominee ultimately won the right to return the sturgeon to the Wolf River in 1992 and the tribe revitalized the full ceremony and celebration of their sacred fish.
In all these situations, Native American tribes learned to adapt to the challenges placed before them, modify their religious practice and embrace a different relationship with the natural world.
Global warming and religion
When it comes to global climate change, it affects everyone, not just specific groups in specific places. But for many indigenous peoples, natural resources are closely linked to religious beliefs and practices.
Historically, indigenous peoples used the natural seasonal cycles of weather, plants and animals as part of their liturgical or religious calendar. The Blackfeet held their annual “beaver bundle ceremony” in the early spring as ice melted off rivers and beavers returned to the open waters. In Blackfeet mythology, a beaver served as a deity who taught humans how to cultivate tobacco, which the tribe used for important religious ceremonies and as a peace offering to their enemies.
There are signs, though, that beavers are now moving north due to global warming. Biologists are currently studying both beavers and the birch and alder shrubs
that beavers eat, as both move north into new regions. Scientists worry that as a keystone species, the movement of beavers will change the northern ecosystems as they cut off waterways and build beaver dams. And shrubs will change the local waterways that they grow by. This will affect local animal species.
What will happen when there are no more beaver in Blackfeet territory? Will their religious traditions adapt similar to the Menominee when they faced the loss of their sacred sturgeon?
Religion and resiliency
From the arctic tundra to the American desert southwest, and places worldwide, indigenous peoples will be facing the impact of global climate change.
Regarding the shrinking of the Colorado River, researchers Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeckhave concluded that, “Failing to act on climate change means accepting the very high risk that the Colorado River basin will continue to dry up into the future.”
If this river faces a drier future, it will likely affect the Mojave, a people indigenous to the Colorado River basin, who believe the river was created by their ancient deity Mastamho as part of their sacred landscape.
As the G-20 convenes in Germany this week to discuss global issues including climate change, indigenous scholars, such as myself, are wondering what the future holds for indigenous peoples, their environments and their religions.
Indigenous communities can be resilient and adapt their internal religious beliefs to outside challenges, as Native American tribes from the turn of the 20th century have proven. Climate change presents yet another challenge.
Texas lawmakers’ attacks on reproductive rights have closed more than 80 of the states family planning clinics, including 11 Planned Parenthood clinics. Photo: The Trott Line
Illustrating the potential consequences if Republicans fulfill their threat to defund Planned Parenthood nationwide, a new study shows that when Texas slashed state funding for family planning clinics in 2011, the abortion rate among teenagers in the state actually increased.
The Texas state legislature launched a series of attacks on reproductive rights, beginning in 2011, when it cut funding for family planning services by 67 percent and restructured the way it allocates the remaining funds. These measures closed more than 80 clinics, including 11 Planned Parenthood clinics. One of the purported goals, said Republican backers, was to decrease abortion rates. As then-governor Rick Perry said: “We will continue to pass laws to ensure abortions are as rare as possible under existing law.” Continue reading →
“We are fighting for our lands, for our water, for our lives,” Jakeline (right), who has received death threats for protesting mining in Colombia, told Global Witness for the report. (Photo: Global Witness)
Last year was the deadliest in history to be an environmental activist, according to a new report that found, on average, nearly four people were killed per week.
Defenders of the Earth, released by U.K.-based human rights group Global Witness, lists the names and locations of 200 environmental advocates who were killed around the world. While the report found Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines were the nations with the most murdered environmentalists in 2016, Honduras has been the deadliest country for environmental activists over the last decade. Continue reading →
Arkansas legislators have drawn harsh criticism from women’s rights groups after passing four new laws that would severely restrict abortion access. (Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr/cc)
A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the American Civil Liberties Union’s suit to block several new anti-reproductive rights laws that have passed in Arkansas, which would impose severe restrictions on women’s abortion access in the state.
The group has joined with the Center for Reproductive Rights to keep the laws from going into effect, starting at the end of July. Continue reading →
The Supreme Court recently decided that Trinity Lutheran Church should be eligible for a Missouri state grant covering the cost of recycled playground surfaces. Though the state originally rejected the church’s application on grounds of separation of church and state, the Supreme Court ruled that this rejection was, in fact, religious discrimination.
The case’s impact will probably reach well beyond playgrounds.
As a scholar of education law, I’ve been following the Trinity Lutheran case and what it could mean for the hottest issue in education: school choice. Where in the past states have decided for themselves whether religious schools are eligible for school vouchers and scholarship tax credits, the Trinity Lutheran decision likely signals that the Supreme Court will soon require states to include religious private schools in their programs. Continue reading →
Never one to accept the U.S. government’s official explanation of events without question, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has investigated Donald Trump’s decision to strike the al-Shayat Airbase in Syria in April of this year, which the president launched amid widespread allegations that the Syrian government committed a chemical weapons attack.
In a report entitled “Trump’s Red Line,” published Sunday in the daily German newspaper Die Welt, Hersh asserts that President Donald Trump ignored important intelligence reports when he made the decision to attack Syria after pictures emerged of dying children in the war-torn country. Continue reading →
In an effort to bring national attention to “homegrown voter suppression” and to launch a campaign of “moral resistance” against Republican attempts to strip healthcare from millions, Rev. William J. Barber and other faith leaders marched in Washington on Friday just ahead of the anniversary of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Writing for NBC News prior to the march, Barber—a member of the NAACP national board of directors and a key figure in the successful effort to overturn North Carolina’s racially gerrymandered districts—argued that absent deliberate efforts by Republican lawmakers to prevent minorities from voting, a Donald Trump victory “would have never been possible.” Continue reading →