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Witnessing A First Nations (R)evolution Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Jessica Bell, United States Jul 3, 2005
Environment , Human Rights   Opinions


Randy Hayes founded the organization I work for, the Rainforest Action Network, after completing a documentary on coal and uranium mining on the Colorado plateau and its effects on the Hopi American Indians. When he asked the indigenous community what he could do to help them, they said, "get your foot off our throat." "And whose foot is really on the throat of the rain forest? It's London, it's Tokyo, it's the U.S," says Randy Hayes.

It's every person that chooses to buy goods and services - from oil to paper - from U.S.-based multinational corporations. Ford, Wells Fargo and Weyerhaeuser executives are making billions by logging and mining within precious ecosystems and destroying local communities to meet exponentially increasing consumer demand in Japan, China, Europe and North America.

As an organizer working within the United States, my coworkers and I brought the Haida's message to the North American public, organizing high profile demonstrations in Toronto, New York and Weyerhaeuser's home town of Seattle. Our goal was to educate consumers about the impact of their purchasing decisions so that when they buy Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir and Hemlock, or anything they truly don't need, they realize they are an ingredient in a system that is destroying our hope for a sustainable future.

We attended Weyerhaeuser's annual general meeting in April 2005. I met the shareholders who control this company - rich, white, conservative balding American men who spend their lives indoors in meetings making decisions that benefit their bottom line yet impact the lives of all. People sat silently and uncomfortably in their seats as activist after activist, from Steelworkers, to environmentalists, to human rights advocates and first nations communities, stood up demanded change, demanded that these people give something up.

The day after Weyerhaeuser's annual general meeting, on April 22, 2005 the Government of British Columbia agreed to protect 40,000 acres of land that the Haida deem important. It's also expected that over time islanders will see a significant drop in the amount of wood that is allowed to be logged on the island, greater economic control over the island's operations, a cessation of bear hunting on the island and a move toward eco-forestry.

It's one step in a series of many that the Haida are taking to reclaim their island. Says Haida Spokesperson, Gilbert Parnell, "We've had a responsibility towards Haida Gwaii and we're never going to give up that responsibility, and we're never going to be assimilated so that we're a culture no more. We're not going anywhere; even though people had plans to get rid of us, we're getting stronger all the time. The writing is on the wall. Change is in the air; it's going to happen."


The Haida Nation is one of many communities struggling to maintain their unique identity and sustainable way of life in the face of ruthless corporate-controlled capitalist interests. RAN supports these communities by running boycott campaigns against some of the world's largest companies, including Weyerhaeuser.

Boycott Western Red Cedar. Weyerhaeuser might not be logging on this island; but they're distributing the products that are logged by its replacement, Island Forest Products. Boycott Weyerhaeuser Western Red Cedar; it goes under the heading of CedarOne.

Boycott Xerox. RAN has discovered that Xerox is buying its paper from two Weyerhaeuser mills which are sourcing their wood from two Canadian boreal regions that contain endangered forests, are ecologically important and whose logging is being opposed by indigenous first nations, including the Mishkeegogamang/Saugeen First Nations community.

Please support these communities by organizing solidarity demonstrations at stores that sells Xerox products, such as Costco and Office Max, and passing an endangered forest policy at a university that has business ties with Xerox. University of California, University of Arizona and Yale University all have ties with Xerox. For more information please go to www.wakeupweyco.com or contact us at grassroots@ran.org 415 398 4404.


For information on the struggle to protect Haida Gwaii go to:

For more information on indigenous struggles in Canada go to:

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Jessica Bell

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