UHN representatives attended the Region VI EPA Environmental Justice Workshop in Houston, Texas from August 6th-8th. Our representatives were able to interact with other communities of color and poverty that are experiencing horrific environmental conditions and intrusions throughout Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico as well as the EPA staff that oversees environmental justice and tribal relations. Workshops focused on how best communities can organize and advocate for their rights, how to be represented and influence land use planning, identifying environmental health risks, the over-population of refineries and chemical releasing plants to minority communities, and identifying community risk from ports, transport and hauling of environmental toxins in and through vulnerable communities.
So what is Environmental Justice and why is it important to the United Houma Nation? According to the Environmental Protection Agency environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
The unfortunate reality is that there is more environmental INjustice that takes place because often minority and poor communities are often left out of decision making and in many historical instances as well as today intentionally targets for environmental manipulation. OUR communities have historically as well as today continue to experience this inequality. Why are our communities sinking into the Gulf of Mexico? Because our communities were never consulted or appropriately "mitigated" on the dredging of the many oil and gas canals and passage-ways that cut through our communities that have left us vulnerable to coastal erosion.
I'd like to challenge you all to think about the community you live in. Has the environment changed that now makes it difficult for you and your family to live there? What are the dangerous or environmental risks that exist there - Is there a chemical plant or oil refinery near you? Is your highway filled with oil and gas tankers labeled as toxic or dangerous? Does someone in your household work with or near hazardous materials?
When we all stop to really evaluate the risks in our communities, we quickly learn there are many. As your Principal Chief I think it would be very easy to blame others for the many woes that our communities are experiencing; however, that will not help us to change anything. Additionally we could choose to lay the blame at the feet of the oil and gas industries; however, how many of us are dependent on these industries for our livelihoods? I believe the solution lies in better educating ourselves on the risks and working on solutions hand in hand with the policy makers and industry to achieve greater safety and security for our communities. We cannot be passive and assume others will speak for us; we MUST speak for ourselves.
I need your help. If you share this vision, please consider joining us in creating a network of environmentally conscious tribal citizens that can work together to ensure OUR PEOPLE are REPRESENTED, OUR PEOPLE have VOICE, and OUR PEOPLE become strong enough to INFLUENCE!
Please contact us HERE to get involved. Please provide your name, contact information and availability.
Thomas Dardar, Jr.