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In This Section
PDF May/June 2006
e-mail April 28, 2006
e-mail February 27, 2006


Moral Challenge, Tough Choices
Offshore Drilling Moratorium Threatened
Cool Cities Guide
Saving the Au Sable
Native Peoples, Club Unite
Sierra Club Insider
Who We Are
Tom Libby
Marty Peale
Yochi Zakai


Why the Endangered Species Act Works...
Sierra Club Kicks Off 'Reality TV'
Largest-Ever Mercury Study
First You Trek, Then You Organize
The (New and Improved) Sierra Club
The Structure of Leadership in the Sierra Club (pdf)
Who You Gonna Call? A Guide to Staff Resources
Introducing the Mentoring Program
Who We Are
Richard Sloan
Linda Ernst
Rod Hunter
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Back Issues

The Planet
Native Peoples, Club Unite

by Tom Valtin

Members of the Quechan Nation hosted 30 Sierra Club members and 15 Mayan Indians from Guatemala for a two-day event in March, organized by the Club’s Responsible Trade Program. Quechan elder Preston Arrowweed welcomed the visitors to the Quechan Reservation, on the Colorado River where California, Arizona, and Mexico meet. The event, which followed months of talks between the Sierra Club and the Mayan and Quechan people, put a face on corporate globalization by exposing how one company, Glamis Gold, Inc., is using trade rules to exploit resources at the expense of indigenous people.

Smiling in Solidarity: The Quechan Nation hosted Mayans from Guatemala and Sierra Club activists at a March gathering on the Quechan Reservation in Southern California. Quechan and Mayan sacred lands are threatened by mining proposals and international trade agreements.

In 2001, citing California environmental law, the Quechan Nation successfully stopped the mining of sacred Quechan lands by Glamis, a Canadian company specializing in cyanide heap leach mining. But under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Glamis has sued the United States to overturn the California law requiring mining companies to return land to its original state once mining operations are completed. Claiming the value of its mining investments has been “expropriated,” Glamis is seeking $50 million for losses to its projected profits from mining Quechan lands.

The Mayans, many of whom have fled to the United States, are fighting an attempt by Glamis to mine Mayan land in Guatemala—a project funded by a loan from the World Bank. The protests in Guatemala have resulted in one death and constant haranguing by Glamis security guards, who have threatened reprisals against residents who speak out against the mine. Some Mayan women claim to have been raped by these “security” forces.

At the March event, participants cooked and camped together, shared in Mayan ceremonies, and attended a Quechan powwow. “This event was successful beyond our wildest expectations,” says Angeles Chapter leader Joan Holtz, who helped organize the gathering. “After our initial ‘Globalization 101’ discussion and riveting testimony from the Mayans and Quechan, we were all energized and strongly united in fighting international trade agreements that trigger social injustice and ravage the earth.”

“The weekend was very powerful,” says Nestor Villatoro, a Guatemalan who co-coordinated the event. “Our people see that the struggle is not only in Guatemala, and they feel the solidarity that the Sierra Club and the Quechan tribe give us. It gives us hope that we can defeat Glamis Gold in Guatemala. All of us feel that we are not alone in this struggle any more.”

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photo by Susan Knight

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