Rise & Repair Rally brings 200+ people to the Minnesota State Capitol on February 15th
200+ activists ask their legislators to center indigenous rights and climate justice in the transition to renewable energy
What does a clean energy future look like to you? Affordable electricity with no more mass shut-offs right before winter? Smog-fee skies and fewer asthma attacks? Drinkable and fishable waters without fear of nitrates or mercury? Energy from the sun and wind powering our communities? Reliable electric service regardless of the weather?
It is 2023 in Minnesota. Clean skies and reliable energy should be the present-day reality for all Minnesotans. But we still struggle against the institutions that perpetuate social and economic inequality, forcing the worst harms of pollution – and now climate change – onto the most marginalized among us.
Indigenous people in Minnesota know this all too well. For centuries, indigenous communities have suffered systemically while being the first line of resistance against environmental degradation. Again and again, in the name of the public good, communities are pushed aside for corporate profit.
But there are solutions in front of us: stronger permitting requirements, zero-carbon affordable housing, start-up funding for local clean energy projects, and much more.
On February 15th, CURE joined members of indigenous, faith, climate, and community groups representing a geographically diverse Minnesota at Rise & Repair: Rally for Indigenous Rights and Climate Justice. On this sunny Wednesday morning, we bundled up, grabbed signs, and marched to the state capitol. Our message was clear: Indigenous Rights are fundamental to climate justice. The transition to clean energy must center on communities that have historically borne the brunt of pollution and the social and economic inequalities that have accelerated climate change.
Over the course of the day, we heard from activists across the Minnesota climate justice sphere speak about current legislation and local grassroots issues, from the demolition of the Roof Depot in the East Phillips and Little Earth neighbors to the possibilities of a Minnesota Green Finance Authority.
We also listened to environmental justice fights happening on the ground CURE’s Maggie Schuppert introduced the emerging issue of carbon dioxide pipelines threatening Western Minnesota and their ties to the fossil fuel industry,
“I, for one, am not interested in a clean energy future that does not include the rapid phase out of fossil fuels.”
We heard from residents of Little Earth standing against the demolition of the roof depot abutting the East Phillips and Little Earth neighborhood, which have faced a history of toxic pollution and abuse from city bureaucracy.
Nicole Perez, resident of Little Earth, bared the pain felt by many indigenous people as she faced the audience, “We have lost several of our children to various heart conditions in our community. My question is: why?”
We are up against a mammoth opponent: corporate control. But we also have the tools to build a clean energy future. And our communities want the same thing: A future with affordable electricity and no more mass electricity shut-offs right before winter, smog-fee skies and fewer asthma attacks, drinkable and fishable waters without fear of nitrates or mercury, and local energy from the sun, wind, and land.
Between speeches, we attended a legislative visit training at Christ Lutheran Church. Our government and legislators are accountable to us, their constituents, and, together, our voice is loud. We practiced sharing our stories with those sitting near us, “What are your memories of the Line 3 fight? How would your community benefit from long-term renewable energy savings? Has pollution impacted the water quality in your community?” By the end of the day of advocacy, over 200 constituents had met with 35 legislators, sharing their personal stories of indigenous rights and climate justice at a critical time in the legislative season.
As the rally came to a close, the high school students and grandmothers, clergy and businesspeople, indigenous people, and new Americans gathered to sing. Our voices filled the capitol rotunda with the words, “Greed, listen up – your days are numbered!” Despite systemic efforts to divide us, everyone in the room had a reason for being there. Many with personal stories of injustice. All of us demanding change.
If you couldn’t make it to the rally, watch our video summary!
Blog contributed by Clovis Curl, CURE’s Minnesota Rural Democracy Project & Democracy and Climate Pledge Organizer, and video by Misty Butler, CURE’s Communications Design & Management Director