As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock

As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock

The story of Native peoples' resistance to environmental injustice and land incursions, and a call for environmentalists to learn from the Indigenous community's rich history of activismThrough the unique lens of "Indigenized environmental justice," Indigenous researcher and activist Dina Gilio-Whitaker explores the fraught history of treaty violations, struggles for food...

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Title:As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock
Author:Dina Gilio-Whitaker
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Edition Language:English

As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock Reviews

  • Janilyn Kocher

    The author makes a compelling argument about how the Native Americans have been cheated, swindled, and taken advantage of through the centuries. Her perspectives are sure to have readers take notice. Facts and history are more important now as they reveal to people how things really are. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC.

  • Christine

    Disclaimer: I won a copy via a Librarything giveaway.

    I suppose I could just say that I was reading this on the way back from work and when I looked up, somehow, the trolley had gotten to one stop from mine without me knowing. It was that absorbing. Gilio-Whitaker makes what might have been a somewhat dull topic and engages the reader.

    But I suppose you want more than that.

    When I mentioned I was reading this book to my friend who teaches in the Urban Studies department and who has worked one v

    Disclaimer: I won a copy via a Librarything giveaway.

    I suppose I could just say that I was reading this on the way back from work and when I looked up, somehow, the trolley had gotten to one stop from mine without me knowing. It was that absorbing. Gilio-Whitaker makes what might have been a somewhat dull topic and engages the reader.

    But I suppose you want more than that.

    When I mentioned I was reading this book to my friend who teaches in the Urban Studies department and who has worked one various community environmental projects, he admitted he wasn’t sure about the term environmental justice. He believes that justice somewhat confuses the issue and prefers the term morality.

    In the opening section of the book, Gilio-Whitaker does take the time to defend what she means by environmental justice as well as statistics that show the impact on minority groups. Donald Trump JR’s inane comment aside, if you have read anything about cities and neighborhoods, you must know the truth of those statements. Gilio-Whitaker then separates Indigenous populations from other minority groups because, quite correctly, she deals with the issues of being dispossessed, broken treaties, and so on.

    What is more important is that for those not of Indigenous heritage or lack of knowledge, she clearly shows not only differences in belief systems, but also how Indigenous populations are more closely tied to the environmental – an environmental that they manipulated long before the arrival of European settlers. The section of the book that traces the history of the environmental movement as well as the development of national parks tying it to the issues of racism and white supremacy.

    There is a very good discussion about the devices used to terminate and move Indigenous populations – slavery, starvation far more than dieses. Particularly gutting wrenching is when the Federal government decided who and who wasn’t an Indigenous tribe, allowing them to take away even more and wrecking more destruction upon the culture.

    Gilio-Whitaker set out and wrote a good about environmental justice and the Indigenous population, but she also damns the education system in American that does not go into depth about the injustices committed to Indigenous populations. Most schools just mention the land stealing. But there is so much more.

    If Coates put forward an eloquent reason for reparations, Gilio-Whitaker puts forward an equally compelling one for Environmental Justice.

  • David Wineberg

    Native Americans have been enduring an unremitting hell ever since the white Europeans arrived 500 years ago. It continues even today. Zero respect is the main problem. It can also be called White Supremacy, as Dina Gilio-Whitaker does often in As Long As Grass Grows. The vehicle for her analysis is Environmental Justice (EJ) and in particular the Standing Rock protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, where she spent a lot of time researching and reporting. But there is no doubt the real

    Native Americans have been enduring an unremitting hell ever since the white Europeans arrived 500 years ago. It continues even today. Zero respect is the main problem. It can also be called White Supremacy, as Dina Gilio-Whitaker does often in As Long As Grass Grows. The vehicle for her analysis is Environmental Justice (EJ) and in particular the Standing Rock protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, where she spent a lot of time researching and reporting. But there is no doubt the real issue is It reeks of white supremacy, she found.

    The book delves into the differences between whites and natives, and how those differences are neither recognized nor respected by government or even well-meaning co-protestors. Whites have co-opted Indian spirituality, assigning it white-oriented meaning, refused to abide by the rules of the natives on their own land at Standing Rock, and of course, nearly wiping out the natives in a slow moving genocide over centuries. Whites do not accept or appreciate natives for who they are – not whites.

    The legal history of EJ is laced with white supremacy, as settlers get more say than the natives, as the State denies them standing, and corporations have the most rights of all. But there’s more than just legal setbacks in preserving water, land or sacred places. There is a long tail of displacement, child removal, forced religion, lack of equal rights, and genocide.

    The concept of genocide was created by Raphael Lemkin in just the 1940s, Gilios-Whitaker says. He postulated that genocide begins with oppression and suppression of a culture, followed by suppression of the people of that culture. It clearly and obviously applies to native Americans, and speaks to why it is taking so long to establish environmental justice. Whites have yet to acknowledge the natives they evicted.

    Capitalism has despoiled the land and poisoned its inhabitants. And native lands most of all, it seems. Of 1322 Superfund sites that are the biggest recognized disasters in the country, 532 are on native lands. This is hugely disproportionate for what little land remains in their hands.

    The chapter on women is particularly instructive. Women have traditionally been equals in native tribes. They have always worked, could own land and make decisions on their own. They alone were always responsible for children, so there was no such thing as an illegitimate child. This collection of differences was highlighted in the 1920s when the USA deigned (at long last) to offer American citizenship to natives. Native women actually had to lower themselves and give up rights they always had (including their religion) in order to accept that offer.

    Whites simply appropriated aspects of native spirituality as part of America’s Manifest Destiny. “The function of indigenous ceremonies was primarily for the perpetuation of particular communities, not for personal enlightenment,” Gilio-Whitaker says.

    Sacred places of natives cannot be moved around. Unlike western religions which can consecrate houses of worship anywhere they want, native religion is a relationship to a place. But white supremacy extends only as far as white-style religion. Nothing else is valid.

    The book concludes with descriptions of tactics the natives are employing to fight EJ cases, with some success. While encouraging, they are not a lock. It boils down to playing the white man’s game in organizing, co-opting, lobbying, and of course, suing. 150,000 people closed their accounts at banks that backed the pipeline.

    What struck me most is the very perversity of the entire EJ system. The term environmental justice in the USA refers only to real or potential damage where an identifiable group might suffer a financial loss. So EJ can be pursued by poor blacks, or by native/indigenous groups. But they must prove a financial hardship or burden. Tradition, sacred mountains and prehistoric tradition don’t count. The concept of environmental justice for the environment is not recognized. But making snow out of recycled sewage for a ski slope on a sacred mountain is wrong. Diverting a river to a surfing paradise to accommodate a new toll road is wrong. Running a dangerous oil pipeline through a major clean water source is wrong. But the Earth has no standing in American law. And no one speaks for Earth.

    Except maybe native Americans.

    David Wineberg

  • Bob H

    A comprehensive and, to many communities involved in environmental issues, instructive history of the native peoples of North America and their relationships and conflicts with federal agencies and the environmental movement. It's a well-researched survey of their struggle, beginning with the early land confiscation, population displacement and outright genocide, and continuing to the present day. We learn of the native peoples' ties to the land and their separation from traditional food sources

    A comprehensive and, to many communities involved in environmental issues, instructive history of the native peoples of North America and their relationships and conflicts with federal agencies and the environmental movement. It's a well-researched survey of their struggle, beginning with the early land confiscation, population displacement and outright genocide, and continuing to the present day. We learn of the native peoples' ties to the land and their separation from traditional food sources, cultural sites and habitation by major dam and irrigation projects, by national parks, by road and energy projects. We learn that instead of the fabled "pristine wilderness," the native peoples had tended the land for food (a concept the author describes as "food sovereignty") and to manage the landscape and foliage -- for instance, that Yosemite valley was better-tended before the park displaced its native inhabitants.

    It's also a valuable look at the interaction between native peoples and the environmental movement, not always beneficial to the former. We do learn that in recent years the causes coincided to fight egregious projects like a toll road at San Clemente that endangered both a popular surfing beach and a native cultural site, or like the Standing Rock pipeline battle. Even then, we find tensions and cultural misunderstandings between the native people fighting for their land and water rights and the non-native activists who moved in during the dispute. The author also notes the fact that Federal recognition of one tribe but not another could be arbitrary, and that the legal and social status of native women was far better in the original society than under U.S. citizenship.

    The author has researched a number of disciplines and made them understandable, everything from land and water law to the local controversies over casino development, tribal government and corporate-native joint food projects. In all, it's a work that can serve as a resource and a source of enlightenment for the environmental movement, for university departments and activists generally. Above all, it presents environmental justice as a concept that must not only address a threatened environment but the impacts and insights of the peoples who originally tended it. Given the latest struggles over the Bears Ears National Monument and the Dakota Access Pipeline, it's timely.

    (Reviewed from advance reading copy via Amazon Vine.)

  • Kati

    I received this book as a first-read win here on Goodreads. That said, my opinions are not impacted by the fact that I received this copy for free.

    I feel as though I made a mistake in requesting this book. While the topic of environmental justice is vitally important, this book read more as an academic text or journal article than as something that was meant for the layperson to understand. The first 5 chapters leant so heavily on academic-speak that I struggled to read more than 3 or 4 pages a

    I received this book as a first-read win here on Goodreads. That said, my opinions are not impacted by the fact that I received this copy for free.

    I feel as though I made a mistake in requesting this book. While the topic of environmental justice is vitally important, this book read more as an academic text or journal article than as something that was meant for the layperson to understand. The first 5 chapters leant so heavily on academic-speak that I struggled to read more than 3 or 4 pages a day.

    It wasn't until chapter 6 "Hearts NOT on the Ground" that the author seemed to remember that she wasn't writing this book for a solely academic crowd. Chapter 6 dealt with the minutia of white misunderstandings surrounding the mores and taboos of Native American cultures in the context of the Oceti Sakawin camp at Standing Rock. This chapter was where I really started to understand, as a white woman myself, how badly we muff things up in the context of Native American sovereignty. And while I recognize that Aboriginal peoples the world over should not have to hold our (white) hands while we navigate the injustices that our colonialism and white supremacist histories have visited upon Aboriginal societies, I don't see a way around the fact that most of us don't read academia very well, and so putting it into terms, breaking it down into easily understood concepts, is ultimately what's needed. A bit of hand-holding through the initial stages is indeed what is needed, at least till those of us who haven't got a back-ground in these issues can gain our footing in the ways in which we can support our Aboriginal communities in their efforts to tear down the colonialism and white supremacy that permeates our world.

    Chapter 7 continued with the more intimate tones, in the education that the author supplied we readers in regards to Panhe and other sacred sites that are being fought for even now. I also appreciated the way in which the author illustrated Aboriginal views on sacred lands versus the white tendencies toward believing that a sacred site can be picked up and moved and overlaid upon previously existing sacred sites. Chapter 7 also put very well into perspective the means by which white cultures pay lip service to the sacred, but are all too willing to desecrate the sacred if money becomes an alternative.

    Due to the importance of the topic of Environmental Justice, I WISH I could give this book 5 stars, but due to the fact that it took so long to recall that many of the readers of this book would be lay-people not academia, I can only give 4 stars. I will be recommending this book to people, though.

  • Colin

    Required reading. Provides a wide-ranging historical overview and outlines the fundamental white supremacy/colonialism in law, health, and the "preservation of nature." Also gives examples of successful coalition work. Recommended.

  • Ai Miller

    Right off the bat, I received a copy of this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, and I am grateful to the publisher for the opportunity to read this. I'm also a white settler-descendent living in the territory currently known as the United States.

    This book is really solid read on indigenous issues with regard to environmental justice, and how indigenous communities need specific frameworks that are not covered by State initiatives. Gilio-Whitaker crams a LOT into this relativel

    Right off the bat, I received a copy of this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, and I am grateful to the publisher for the opportunity to read this. I'm also a white settler-descendent living in the territory currently known as the United States.

    This book is really solid read on indigenous issues with regard to environmental justice, and how indigenous communities need specific frameworks that are not covered by State initiatives. Gilio-Whitaker crams a LOT into this relatively short book, and somehow makes it all pretty accessible, though there are maybe some terms that could be explained more? (I'm wondering at a US settler-descendent's introduction to settler colonialism through this book, and if they felt like they would understand it.) She manages to use the #NoDAPL protests from 2016 as a solid frame, while not exclusively focusing on or fetishizing what happened there. Her citational practice is super solid, and it's very easy to find more books to read on the topic after hers. Her topics are also cover a lot of ground--not only what we might think of as issues of environmental damage, like toxins etc., but also food sovereignty and tribal sovereignty as well. Overall a really good, accessible book for people interested in understanding issues surrounding environmentalism, environmental justice, and indigenous issues in a fairly complex way.

  • Sarah Meisch

    I received this book as a part of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program

    I wanted to read this book because my education in terms of indigenous Americans is extremely lacking. It seems to me that we (supposedly progressively minded Americans) are just beginning to wake up to the ongoing oppression of American Indians. In my own town there has recently been controversy over using the traditional native name for a local lake. We take one step forward in recognizing that we live on colonized land onl

    I received this book as a part of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program

    I wanted to read this book because my education in terms of indigenous Americans is extremely lacking. It seems to me that we (supposedly progressively minded Americans) are just beginning to wake up to the ongoing oppression of American Indians. In my own town there has recently been controversy over using the traditional native name for a local lake. We take one step forward in recognizing that we live on colonized land only to take another step back.

    This book discusses how native culture is inextricably linked to native land. And therefore culture in linked to environmental. Forced changes to the environment are a threat to indigenous peoples. This book argues for the necessity of a native inclusive approach to environmental justice. This means protecting the environment but also protecting the way people engage with the environment. These forced changes, the book shows, did not end with forced migration or the slaughter of the buffalo, but continue to this day. Gilio-Whitaker uses the recent events at Standing Rock to illustrate this. She states “One the one hand, the Dakota Access Pipeline was only the most recent intrusion into the Standing Rock Sioux’s lands and sovereignty. On the other hand, it represented a breaking point…”

    This book is a good introduction to environmental justice for those who are not familiar with the subject. It is also important reading for those interested in Native American history. Each chapter provides a window into a different era of environmental threats and struggles faced by Native American caused by settler colonialism. Each chapter could be a book in itself.

  • Bookworm

    I was very excited to read this book to learn more about how Natives have been fighting against environmental racism and injustice, the damage and theft of their lands, etc. I'll admit I was a bit hesitant because I've read another book by author Gilio-Whitaker and wasn't that excited by the text. But I thought this would be an education read anyway.

    Gilio-Whitaker gives the reader an overview what environmental justice and resistance means to Natives, how they engage in it, why they do so, and m

    I was very excited to read this book to learn more about how Natives have been fighting against environmental racism and injustice, the damage and theft of their lands, etc. I'll admit I was a bit hesitant because I've read another book by author Gilio-Whitaker and wasn't that excited by the text. But I thought this would be an education read anyway.

    Gilio-Whitaker gives the reader an overview what environmental justice and resistance means to Natives, how they engage in it, why they do so, and more. You're probably familiar with some of these topics: Standing Rock, No DAPL, oil and gas drilling, mining, etc. These topics have been and continue to remain highly topical as the current administration really doesn't care about Native issues or sovreignty. So sadly, this is a highly timely read.

    Unfortunately, a lot of the negative comments are on point. I'm no expert, but I thought the text was a tough read. It can be highly academic, and so despite the text being only around 160 pages it feels a lot longer. This might be a book that is best used in a classroom setting with discussion and articles to supplement the reading.

    Still, it's an important read. Recommend picking it up from the library if you're interested.

  • Ryan

    At its best, Dina Gilio-Whitaker’s As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock was frustrating. At its worst, it was inaccurate and disappointing.

    A scholar of American Indian Studies, Gilio-Whitaker attempts to provide a compelling and timely argument for the indigenization of environmental justice. With the ever increasing focus on indigenous communities in the United States because of the No DAPL movement, this is an important and

    At its best, Dina Gilio-Whitaker’s As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock was frustrating. At its worst, it was inaccurate and disappointing.

    A scholar of American Indian Studies, Gilio-Whitaker attempts to provide a compelling and timely argument for the indigenization of environmental justice. With the ever increasing focus on indigenous communities in the United States because of the No DAPL movement, this is an important and necessary topic, however this piece falls short.

    Overall, the book feels like a cursory literature review lacking justifications and anything that adds to the literature that already exists on the topics Gilio-Whitaker covers. Throughout the text it seems as though the author expects nearly every assertion made to be taken at face value without adequate references or evidence. As I was reading, nearly every time I read a passage that sounded interesting and merited further independent research, the author neglected to provide a single reference. When the author did provide citations, they were all too often from questionable or poor sources such as popular websites. I’m not by any means arguing that the only sources of knowledge can be from scholarly, academic sources, however when there is an abundance of research on a given topic it is good practice to provide at least of few references so your readers can learn more on their own. One of the most confusing instances of this occurs when the author cites Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to characterize the effects of damming on the Columbia River on indigenous populations in the surrounding area.

    Nevertheless, these critiques pale in comparison to one of Gilio-Whitaker’s most glaring errors. During a discussion on western expansion quite early in the book, the author incorrectly names the writer of the Doctrine of Discovery as Supreme Court Justice John Marshall (in 1823) and only mentions that this was justified by a series of “ancient” papal bulls. In fact, the Doctrine of Discovery was penned by Pope Alexander IV in 1493 and served as justification for the colonization of much of the world by Europeans, not just as a support for Manifest Destiny, as the author claims. This foundational error for any discussion surrounding any indigenous peoples around the world is inexcusable for anyone claiming to have an understanding of the role of Christianity in European colonization efforts. Furthermore, this mistake diminishes the effects of the Doctrine of Discovery on indigenous communities worldwide as it places its existence solely within the United States legal system. This mistake left me wondering who in fact reviewed this publication before it went to print and, further, how this mistake was not caught by editors/reviewers.

    In my opinion, her strongest chapter, explaining the role of women in indigenous environmental justice movements, even falls short. This chapter followed a discussion of the environmentalist movement’s tenuous relationship with indigenous communities and included a justifiable critique of the founders of this movement’s view of American Indians as “noble savages.” However, when Gilio-Whitaker discussed the influence of ideas about indigenous communities on the women’s rights movement less than fifty years later, she fails to offer the same critique of early women’s rights advocates.

    If this wasn’t enough to deter individuals seriously interested in indigenous peoples issues, even some of her language choices left me scratching my head. For instance, she describes the Pueblo peoples as having “evolved agricultural practices” after a series of environmental changes, relying on language akin to cultural evolution theory that served as justification for much of European colonialism the world over. Additionally, her capitalization of Indian Country (“Indian country”) and her constant use of the phrase “New World” as opposed to the “Americas” is unorthodox in the field of American Indian studies.

    When I saw that I had received a free review copy of As Long as Grass Grows, I was quite excited, but as I read I became increasingly disappointed. The authors tone of supreme authority, coupled with fatal errors in the text, left me skeptical of the entire piece even though I know about the plight of indigenous communities through my own research. While the topic of indigenous environmental justice is certainly ripe for new literature, this piece does not satisfy the expectations that some of its glowing reviews suggest.

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