Casey Camp-Horinek – Opening Expert

Presentation of the Indigenous Environmental Network and Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth and our Grandmothers – and Future Generations

Delivered by Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca – Oklahoma, USA)
to Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal

January 17, 2014 – Quito, Ecuador

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Espanol:  Casey Camp-Horinek Testigo Experto – Derechos de la Naturaleza

Casey Camp-Horinek

My name is Zhuthi [Ponca], I am from the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma USA.  We of that nation understand the relationship between our Great Mothers and ourselves as our sisters from the Amazon spoke of yesterday.  We too have the extractive industries practicing horrendous operations in our territory that is creating a situation of environmental genocide. We are averaging one death per week in a community of 600 to 800 people.  All of these are from cancers and from unknown autoimmune diseases that create these same things in our bodies that our Mother the Earth is feeling at this moment.

We would ask you to overlook me being here in your territory. I thank you for this opportunity to come here and to speak on behalf of our Mother Earth and on behalf of our Indigenous Peoples.  I ask for your prayers, those of you from this beautiful area that we are honored to be guests in, that you might give me the words to say and the feelings to express, the relationship that we share with our Mother Earth.

And I would remind you of a very simple thing: If you drank water this morning or liquids, if you ate of the hooded nations or the four legged; if you breath; if your body became warm from the fires of the earth, then you must recognize and understand that there is no separation between humans and Earth and all that are relatives of Earth and the cosmos, because you live in relationship with her as a result of being one with her and there is no separation. 

Our prophecies and teachings tell us that life on Mother Earth is in danger and coming to a time of great transformation. As Indigenous Peoples, from the global South and North, we are accepting the responsibility designated by our prophecies to tell the world that we must live in peace with each other and Mother Earth to ensure the harmony within Creation.

Indigenous Peoples are people of the land and of the waters; and we are confronting many challenges: challenges such as extreme changes in the climate, extreme weather events, extreme energy development, and the continued push of economic globalization and a continuation of western forms of development.

Fossil fuel development within Indigenous Peoples’ territories, land, water and seas are on the increase. It is business as usual. The petroleum and extractive industries with the helping hand of the governments are expanding exploration to find more fossil fuels and furthering its energy addiction and high consumption levels.

The survival of the indigenous cultures, languages and our communities’ continue to be affected by a modern industrialized world that lacks awareness and respect for the sacredness of our Mother the Earth.

Our Mother the Earth is the source of life. Water is her lifeblood. The well-being of the natural environment predicts the physical, the mental, the emotional and the spiritual longevity of our communities.

Mother Earth’s health, her nature, and that of our Indigenous Peoples are intertwined, inseparable. As Indigenous Peoples, we are of the Earth and the Earth is of us. Mother Earth is life. This inseparable relationship must be respected through rights-based instruments for the sake of our future generations and for the well-being of the Earth herself, for all people, for all life.

Our Indigenous Peoples believe that our system of governance must reflect our belief in balance and harmony. We believe in the equity of all of Creation, not just ourselves. The animals, the plants, the rocks and all elements have as much right to exist as we do.

This doesn’t mean that we could not harm another living creature, since we require food from the plants and animals, but that we are to respect the sacrifice made by the animals and the plants and the water herself. These sacrifices were part of the Original Instructions to respect each other, to care for one another other, because we are related to one other, as brothers and sisters.

God is compassionate. Mother Earth is compassionate. It is our relationship to be compassionate as well with all of our relations.

We believe by observing the Natural Laws of Mother Earth, we would be able to learn the right way of life – the good way of living, to find balance and harmony with what is called Nature.

Indigenous Peoples are very lawful people. From the Haudenosaunee Indigenous Peoples of North America, to our Ponca Peoples, to those of the Southern Hemisphere; we recognize our responsibilities and duties to the natural laws of Creation, as defined by our Original Instructions.

Our Original Instructions declares and teaches us of the four sacred elements of life: air, light/fire, water and earth and its pollen and seeds in all their forms must be respected, honored and protected for they sustain our lives. Our Natural Law teaches us to respect all Creation, from Mother Earth and Father Sky and to all Life that have their own laws, and who have rights and freedom to exist. We are taught we must treat this sacred bond with love, compassion and respect without exerting dominance, for we do not own our Mother.

The rights and freedoms of the people to the use of the sacred elements of life as mentioned above and to the use of the land, nature, sacred sites and other living beings must be accomplished through the proper protocols of respect, thanksgiving and making offerings. These cultural and spiritual practices must be protected and preserved for they are the foundation of our ceremonies, our heritage, and our indigenous ways of life. It is the duty, responsibility and obligation of our Indigenous Peoples to protect and preserve the beauty of the natural world for our future generations.

Historically, the Doctrine of Discovery was used to justify the first wave of colonialism here in the Americas by alleging that Indigenous peoples did not have souls, and that our territories were “terra nullius,” land of nobody. Mother Earth is the source of life which needs to be protected, not a resource to be exploited and commodified as a ‘natural capital.’

We feel the pain of the disharmony when we witness the dishonor of the natural order of Creation and the continued economic colonization and degradation of Mother Earth and all life upon her.

To restore Mother Earth – her nature’s balance, the world needs to shift from a philosophy of control and dominion over nature, and its legal system of property rights regimes, to a relationship of understanding and respect for the Natural Laws and love for the beauty of the creative female energy of Mother Earth.

This inseparable relationship between humans and the Earth, inherent to Indigenous peoples, must be learned, must be embraced, and respected by all people, for the sake of our future generations and your future generations and of all humanity.

Mother Earth’s rights are inherent. Any law that denies these fundamental rights are illegitimate and a violation of all the Natural Laws of Creation.

We can preserve, protect, and fulfill our sacred duties to live with respect in this wonderful Creation. We have the power and responsibility for change.

A paradigm, that is based on Indigenous thought and philosophy needs to be forwarded which grants equal rights to Nature and which honors the interrelation in all life.

This is the greatest challenge facing humanity, whether here it’s here in middle Earth of Ecuador or globally, to recognize its responsibilities, duties and obligations to the rights of Mother Earth.

Mitakuye Owasin

Read more about the Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal