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Environmental Studies Program

Manley Memorial Lecture

Thursday, February 28, 2019 3:30pm MSI Auditorium 1302



Indigeneity Program BIONEERS


Protecting Tribal Lands While Strengthening Sovereignty

The Environmental Studies Program invites you to its 38th Annual Steven Manley Memorial Lecture. This year’s honorary speaker is Dr. Alexis Bunten (Unangan/Yup’ik). Dr. Bunten co-directs the Bioneers Indigeneity Program. She has served as a manager, consultant and applied researcher for Indigenous, social and environmental programming for over 15 years. In her lecture, Dr. Bunten will share the current state of the tribal Rights of Nature movement in the US today, nesting it within the larger global movement. Millions of acres of Native American sacred lands have been critically threatened since the Trump administration rolled back federal protections for numerous National Monuments and Conservation Lands across the West for mining and drilling. Many US tribes’ reservations fall within or adjacent to these lands and precious watersheds. These are just the latest actions in a 500+-year crusade to strip Native Americans of their resources, violate ceremonial sites, destroy sacred burial grounds, and ultimately extinguish Indigenous Peoples’ human rights. Until we change the very underlying system under which our country was founded --a system that treats people and ecosystems as expendable property—the never ending destruction will continue. The emergent global Rights of Nature movement offers a powerful new strategy to conserve lands by turning the existing property paradigm towards upside down. Instead of conceiving of land as private property, nature is granted the right to exist, persist, flourish and evolve. Based on legal theory, case law, and examples of grassroots organizing, Dr. Bunten will argue that US federally recognized tribes are well-positioned to implement and uphold Rights of Nature in a way that US states and municipalities cannot. She’ll make a case for Rights of Nature as the best way to prevent the destruction of Indigenous lands (as well as connecting watersheds, wildlife corridors and atmosphere), while strengthening tribal sovereignty, the most important issue in Indian Country.