The 5th Extreme Energy Extraction Summit was held September 18th - 21st, 2015 at the Upper Missouri Ministries in Epping, North Dakota. Once again, it was such a joy to gather with 85 powerhouse leaders and organizers for a weekend and welcome 50 new organizers and 17 new organizations into the Collaborative. We were again a diverse group across our movement with a wide spectrum of ages, issues, experiences, type of groups, races, genders, and classes, and our strongest participation yet from indigenous leaders, youth and the northwestern quarter of the country. This was in no small part due to the tireless effort of Kandi Mossett, of the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, and Kathryn Hilton who hosted the Summit and organized our Environmental Justice tour. We would also like to thank Casey Camp-Horinek, Tom Goldtooth and Clayton Thomas-Muller for sharing their traditions, wisdom and blessings with us.
(read complete notes from the Summit here)
In the Belly of the Beast
We truly went deep into the heart of extraction country at this Summit. We were surrounded by Bakken shale development, with nearly a dozen flares within site of the facility and a new well being drilled right over the hill. The first day of the Summit was a tour of impacts of oil fracking. Our first stop was a loading facility for bomb trains, where we were joined by company security, the police and a local TV station. (Apparently our group is so powerful, we're a threat just standing around taking pictures.) We then traveled to the Fort Berthold reservation to eat lunch with community members and tour the site of a massive brine pipeline spill. All along the way the density of pipelines, wells, and other infrastructure was incredible. Many deep thanks to Kandi, the DeVilles and the Jorgansens for sharing their first-hand experiences of the damage being done in North Dakota. Experience was eye-opening for all of us (right down to being called "environmental weenies" at the gas station). Everyone left deeply committed to sharing the harrowing stories of contamination, corruption, violence, traffic fatalities, drug abuse and illness we heard with our communities and the nation.
Diversity and Unity
Our Summits are some of the most deeply diverse spaces in the environmental movements. The Collaborative is made up of people from deeply different cultures, experiences, communities of struggle, and approaches and belief about our shared work. Since the beginning this has been one of our greatest strengths and greatest challenges. This was true again in North Dakota as we spent much of Saturday tackling some of these tensions head on. We took time to reflect on different dynamics in movement space and build some shared language around systemic oppression and decolonization. We also took a deep dive into the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing, which the Collaborative has committed to, which sparked intense and difficult conversations about race, intersections with class and environmental impacts, and tensions between "Big Greens" and grassroots organizing. As challenging, uncomfortable and, at times, frustrating as those conversations were, these are critical issues to confront in our work. It was amazing to watch this group work through these real differences and still come back together to do so much good work together throughout the rest of the Summit. Many thanks to the people of color caucus for their thoughtful statement at the end of Saturday's discussion (see notes) and to some of our indigenous elders for helping re-ground us on Sunday morning.
As always, the heart and soul of our Summit was participants identifying and having the conversations they most need to have. This time, we really tried to ground ourselves in the history of conversations at past Summits, learn from them, and create more continuity and clarity. We identified 3 broad categories of discussions that happen at our Summits: sharing skills, strategies and successes; building shared language and analysis around big issues in our movement; and creating concrete plans for future collaboration. All 3 types of breakout discussions happened at the past Summit and some conversations that blended them together. Folks shared resources and tools for research and data-driven campaigns, discussed ways for white folks to practice anti-racism in our movement, shared information on using the framework of indigenous peoples' rights as a strategy, and youth met to share strategies and needs for engaging more youth in our movement. Other discussions tackled tough issues of the tensions between big national scale actions such as the People's Climate March and local and grassroots work, and of funding equity in the movement, with an eye towards communicating the current issues with funders and on actions the Collaborative can undertake itself. Lastly, groups met to build strategy for fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline and for organizing against oil trains nationally. Reportbacks from each of these sessions are here.
Our rich conversations were not confined to our formal meeting time. Much of the work of this Summit happened over meals, on walks around the lake, trips to the local bar, and late nights watching the northern lights or singing around the fire, and, of course, at another fantastic Open Mic show. Many thanks to our facilitators, Ananda Lee Tan and Lillian Molina, for helping us again create the unique space that the Extreme Energy Extraction Collaborative is.
We closed the Summit thinking about the future of the Collaborative. We had a lively discussion about potential locations and points of focus for future Summits and brainstorming about where we can go from here. You could really tell that our movement has embraced this project and folks truly feel that this Collaborative and these Summits belong to them more than ever. This has been the vision of this project from the very beginning and it is wonderful to see this group continue to grow and mature.