Tom BK Goldtooth talks Indigenous peoples, the environment at Common Hour

By Christa Rodriguez || Campus Life Editor

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This past Thursday, Common Hour speaker Tom BK Goldtooth, the Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, gave his talk titled “Ecological Justice: Indigenous Peoples, Mother Earth and Father Sky.” He discussed the significance of Standing Rock and the people that came together to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. He mentioned that Indigenous peoples around the world, such as in Brazil, with no knowledge of English, knew the saying of the protesters: “water is life.”

Goldtooth also emphasized that he lives on “occupied territory,” touching on the history of the United States, which was destructive to the Indigenous peoples that were here. He reminded the audience that ideas like Manifest Destiny and colonizers acting on blessings from the Church caused them to label Indigenous peoples as pagans and less than human as justification for taking over. He noted that colonization and militarization go together. “There was a process of making people feel ashamed of who they are,” Goldtooth stated.

The next generation of Indigenous peoples is starting a movement to reclaim their culture and language. They are raising questions, such as how U.S. energy policy impacts its people. Goldtooth asked, “Why are we at war against mother Earth?” Part of the goal of Indigenous Environmental Network is to fight the detrimental effects of “environmental racism” and capitalism. The negative environmental impacts of companies and policies affect everyone, especially the Indigenous peoples who depend on the land. “So we are in this dilemma in this moment where we need to challenge ourselves and we need to do it together,” he said. He concluded his talk the talk with a song in his native language.

Junior Christa Rodriguez is the Campus Life Editor. Her email is


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