ALBANY – More than 1,000 protestors descended upon New York State’s capital of Albany on January 8th, 2014. The Empire Plaza, where Governor Andrew Cuomo was giving his State of the State address was filled with very positive and uplifting energy for what was one of the largest anti-fracking protests in state history. The New York State assembly voted 93 to 43, in November of 2010, to place a moratorium or freeze on hydraulic fracturing in order to give the state more time to address safety and environmental concerns. The Cuomo administration maintains that they are waiting for a clear analysis of fracking effects on health and water quality before they make any decisions to go forward with drilling. Protestors, on the other hand, are urging the state to ban fracking all together and concentrate on maintaining a clean environment for the next seven generations.
Hydraulic fracturing began in the 80’s and has since boomed across the North American continent, reaching both the Canadian and American coasts. Among the many Indigenous communities fighting for the integrity of traditional territories, the Tahltan First Nation of British Columbia have successfully struggled for over 10 years to push back Shell Gas. As a result of their efforts, British Columbia plans to issue a permanent moratorium on oil and gas drilling. Meanwhile, the Elsipogog Mi’kmaq First Nation in New Brunswick were recently turned down when seeking an injunction to stop SWN Resources Canada from surveying land 46km north of Mi’kmaq Territory. In both cases, Native people have been arrested while defending their territories.
Tehoiatathe Tarbell travelled all the way from Akwesasne Territory to attend Albany’s anti-fracking rally. He said that his group from Akwesasne raised money in order to travel to Elsipogtog, making three separate trips, with some of the men staying over three weeks to help support their efforts. As statesmen attending Cuomo’s State of the State filed in and out of the heavily guarded Empire Plaza, Tehoiatathe Tarbell, Mike Sahtekaientes, and Jose Verdugo of Akwesasne continued to drum and sing even after New York State Police threatened to take their drums. As they asserted their right to protest, they remained in high spirits. Supporters chanted to loudly to police to let them drum.
Protestors from the Onondaga Nation also travelled to attend the fracking rally. Hickory Edwards, Onondaga Nation Turtle Clan carried his 1 year-old daughter Elli Rose on his back. His life work is dedicated to protecting the water. This past summer Hickory led a large group of paddlers from Onondaga Nation Territory to New York City to raise awareness for our waterways. He says he finds his motivation in his children, and also the seven generations who’s faces are still under the earth.
At Akwesasne, as well as at Kanahwake, solidarity fires burn. Jesse Beeson of Akwesasne says he volunteered to keep the fire burning during the winter months. He says, “It is here for all people to come and pray, relax, or just sit by the fire. It also serves as a spot of awareness for Mother Earth’s pain and suffering. When I burn tobacco every day and every night I acknowledge all of creation and Mother Earth. The fire burns in solidarity for all of Mother Earth’s defenders.”