Indigenous Communities, Human Rights and Environmental (In)Justice
By Meschelle Linjean
Social workers are charged with advancing human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice. We advocate for the rights of vulnerable populations and against any policies, practices, and attitudes that jeopardize anyone’s life, liberty, and security of person. Grave social, economic, and environmental injustices take place in the name of corporate development and greed.
This blog post looks at the ways extractive industry development (e.g., oil and gas extraction, mining, logging) in Indigenous homelands in the Americas often result in displacement, poisoning and desecration of the land and water, and contributes to high rates of sexual assault, sex trafficking, and murder. The beneficiaries are wealthy outsiders, corporations and shareholders. Deep ecology, ecofeminism, empowerment theory, and trauma-informed perspectives are all insightful lenses through which these outrages may be viewed, but this post’s perspective will use the frameworks of human rights, oppression and empowerment.
Historical trauma, gender-based violence
Historical trauma, devastating assimilation policies, and continuing oppression have rendered Indigenous communities in the U.S. extremely vulnerable to human rights violations, and disproportionately high rates of poverty and violence. Four out of five Indigenous persons have suffered a violent crime in their lifetime; four out of five perpetrators of this violence are non-Indigenous (Nagle and Steinem, 2016). American Indian and Alaska Native women suffer sexual violence at the highest rate of any racial group, per capita, in the U.S. (Brewer, 2017).