Wisconsin Energy Institute panel discusses energy development, activism on tribal lands · The Badger Herald | Whuff News


To celebrate American Heritage Month, the Forward Energy Forum is hosting a panel titled “Energy and Water: The Intersection of Energy Development and Activism on Tribal Lands” on Tuesday, November 1, at the Wisconsin Energy Institute.

The panel was moderated by UW water resources engineering research associate PArisa Sarzaeim. The panel discussed how Native American tribes in the Midwest treat large utility companies that build energy infrastructure on tribal land.

Assistant professor of history and American Indian studies Sasha Maria Suarez spoke on the topic of indigenous activism and resistance. Suarez said activism takes many forms. Activists participate in water walks as well as public hearings and legal cases. Activists can take direct action, such as setting up camp between oil pipelines to raise awareness of the fear oil spills can have on water sources and Indigenous communities.

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“We are seeing the ways that indigenous peoples are building strong alliances between indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples around this issue of our shared habitats, and why it is important to protect them,” said Suarez.

Sault Ste. Marie of the Chippewa Indian tribe environmental program manager Kathleen Brosemer he talked about seventh generation thinking, the philosophy that decisions today should take into account the preservation of seven generations in the future.

Seventh-generation thinking focuses on the land as its own entity with its own agency, and how the land must be respected when people make decisions, Brosemer said.

“Laws and laws are based on the land or natural law, and what the land accepts and what the land does not,” Brosemer said. “And that is far, far more than seven generations.”

An audience member asked Mashkiiziibii (Bad River) Department of the Environment state energy manager and air quality expert Daniel Wiggins Jr. what power and natural justice look like. Wiggins said nations getting into the energy industry themselves is one step toward environmental justice.

These changes are different for each tribe based on location, but Wiggins said tribes can control utilities that meet the reserve and can start wind, solar and other energy projects as a result.

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“There’s a huge opportunity for tribes to take the things they want and then go into a lot of these businesses where you see these things being useful,” Wiggins said.

This panel is part of the Energy Forum’s monthly Keynote. This forum aims to promote the social, technical, political and economic aspects of clean energy projects by bringing together experts from on and off campus. With November as American Heritage Month, the panel focused on independent Native nations in the Midwest and energy infrastructure on tribal lands, said Wisconsin Energy Institute research and education coordinator Scott Williams.

Williams encouraged people to participate in Native November events at UW. This year’s theme is “beyond understanding,” which includes awareness of current and future issues and the achievements of Indigenous people.



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