How Contaminating the Water Threatens Women’s Reproductive Rights - Fertiliser and Non Germinating crops
“Just like a baby needs blood from the mother…we need blood of Mother Earth.” By Aura Bogado
Exploring the ways that water intersects with issues we care about, like climate change, reproductive rights, racial equality, social justice, and personal health. Re-exploring water week water contamination by fertilisers and decaying crops.
Coya White Hat-Artichoker remembers that she was sitting by the wood stove in her cousin’s tepee at Oceti Sakowin Camp in North Dakota last November when she began talking about her reproductive justice work with SisterSong. Coya and her cousin Aldo Seoane were there as water protectors, defending the region’s water from the potential risks associated with the Dakota Access Pipeline. It was in that tepee that her cousin reminded her that the Lakota word for womb is "tamni." “The word means ‘her water,’” says Coya. “If the water is poisoned, then she is poisoned.”
The Dakota Access pipeline is slated to carry nearly half a million barrels of crude oil per day under Lake Oahe, putting the reservation’s primacy source of drinking water at risk. And in the Lakota way of understanding, putting water at risk means putting wombs at risk. “Is it acceptable to possibly poison people down the river?” asks Coya. “I don’t think so.”
The threat from contaminated water to indigenous women’s reproductive health isn’t limited to the Dakotas. Some 1,000 miles south, in New Mexico, is the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which created the nuclear bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The potassium dichromate that was used to prevent corrosion in the lab’s power plant cooling towers was released into nearby canyons between 1956 and 1972, leading to a contamination plume that’s leached into part of the region’s aquifer. Los Alamos’s neighbors are more than a dozen tribal Pueblos.
“Indigenous lands have always been stolen or taken as sacrifice zones,” says Corrine Sanchez, who leads Tewa Women United. The organization, located a short drive from the lab in Española, New Mexico, works on a variety of challenges facing indigenous women in the area, including environmental and reproductive justice. Corrine adds that there’s long been culture of resistance on the part of Native Americans to defend land and water — but that it’s long been overlooked.
In New Mexico, says Corrine, who’s a member of the San Ildefonso Pueblo, "water is the lifeline of our community," and just as at Standing Rock, the threat of contamination stifles the ability to exist. “We are an embodiment of Mother Earth,” says Corrine. “Just like a baby needs blood from the mother...we need blood of Mother Earth.”
Coya and Corrine both say that tribal sovereignty is important when it comes to protecting water, but that understanding extends beyond physical borders. It’s about being able to practice sovereignty over one’s own body — something that’s difficult if not impossible to do if industries poison the water that carries life.
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