The Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegations is a partnership between Divest Invest Protect (DIP) and the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International. Michelle Cook, Dine' (Navajo) Founder of DIP and Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder of WECAN International are the Co-Directors of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegations.
Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation to Norway and Switzerland outside of Norges Bank before meeting with Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global, Spring 2017. (Left to right) Wasté Win Young, Dr.Sarah Jumping Eagle, Michelle Cook, Autumn Chacon, Tara Houska, with Delegate organizer, Osprey Orielle Lake - Photo via WECAN International
The central goal of the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegations, organized by WECAN International with the leadership of Indigenous women and their directives, is to provide a platform for Indigenous women leaders to meet face-to-face with representatives of European and U.S. financial institutions, insurance companies, and credit-rating agencies, to expose injustices, and directly share with these entities - and the public, press, and government representatives - exactly how their fossil fuel investments violate human rights and Indigenous rights, while also driving climate disruption. Ultimately, these Delegations and future Delegations seek to put pressure on institutions to divest funds from fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure immediately, as well as to systematically change their policies regarding Indigenous and human rights and the climate crisis.
Norway, Switzerland, and Germany in Europe have been key focus areas of Delegations, due to the fact that these countries are home to some of the largest institutions financing extraction across North America and around the world. Delegations have also traveled to Washington D.C. and New York City in the U.S. for key financial meetings, events, and actions.
The Delegations have bore critical results in divestments, education, policy changes, and investigations, including in Norway, where the advocacy of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation was instrumental in DNB bank selling their $331 million dollar credit line to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), following strong advocacy efforts from many groups, and an independent investigation in which DNB affirmed the violation of Indigenous rights and failure to properly consult the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Additionally, DNB and UBS, two of the banks the Delegation met with and sent evidence to regarding rights violations, chose not to renew Energy Transfer Partners credit facilities with their institutions removing 100’s of millions of dollars off the table.
The program has organized and facilitated five delegations of Indigenous women leaders and has engaged over a dozen national and international banks and financial institutions in five countries, as well as participating in consultations with various banks to improve their ESG guidelines and implementation processes, including participation in in-person meetings and the revision process of the Equator Principles Association guidelines, which involves over 90 banks globally.
The educational component of this program involves 1) extensive research and monitoring of financial institutions 2) organizing and facilitating strategy meetings and webinars for Indigenous women to gain knowledge about financial operations and instruments; divestment advocacy; and the companies, banks, and actors impacting their lands and rights.
Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegates, Michelle Cook (Diné/Navajo) and Dr. Melanie K. Yazzie (Bilagáana/Diné), along with Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of WECAN International in Toronto for the Equator Principles Association’s Consultation Meeting on July 30, 2019. Photo Credit via WECAN International
In July 2019 a fifth Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation and allies co-led by Divest Invest Protect and the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International traveled to Toronto, Canada to meet with the Equator Principles Association or 'EP Banks' as they facilitated an external consultation process in regards to revising the Equator Principles (EP).
The EP Banks are a group of 94 international banks who have signed-on to adhere to a voluntary set of principles enshrined in the 'Equator Principles' document. As stated on the EP Banks website, the Equator Principles is used as "a risk management framework, adopted by financial institutions, for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in projects and is primarily intended to provide a minimum standard for due diligence and monitoring to support responsible risk decision-making." You can see our previous advocacy efforts with EP banks here.
During the external consultation, the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation and allies were committed to ensuring women's voices were heard by advocating for stronger revisions that uphold Free, Prior, and Informed Consent; respect Indigenous rights and women's rights; protect the global climate; and include the voices of those most impacted by the financing decisions of EP banks.
Despite the calls for banks to be accountable to the people and the planet, the Equator Principles failed to act upon the call for action and incorporate the counsel of those most impacted by their financial decision making. In Autumn 2019, the EP Banks released the final version of the new Equator Principles which, are inadequate in upholding or respecting Indigenous or human rights, specifically Indigenous peoples right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent as laid out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The new EP’s also fail in limiting finance for projects that severely contribute to climate disaster. As we plunge further into climate chaos, we need financial institutions to act alongside millions who are calling for an end to business as usual.
While we are deeply disappointed by the EP Banks failure to make strong commitments we will continue to advocate in the ‘Equator Banks, Act!’ campaign, which has vowed to work together to resist the financing by Equator Banks of all new fossil fuel projects and all projects that impact Indigenous peoples’ rights and territories. To see our collective response to the new Equator Principles, please see the press release.
Delegates included - Dr. Melanie K. Yazzie (Bilagáana/Diné), Assistant Professor of Native American Studies and American Studies at the University of New Mexico and National Chair of The Red Nation; and Michelle Cook (Diné/Navajo), Founder of Divest, Invest, Protect, and Co-director of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegations. The delegation was organized by Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder and Executive Director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network and Co-director of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegations.
Representatives of the Spring 2018 Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation to Europe, in Germany outside of Deutsche Bank - Photo via WECAN International
A third Indigenous Women's Delegation returned to Germany and Switzerland in Spring 2018.
During high-level meetings with officials from UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and the Swiss government; a public education event in Zurich; and direct actions outside bank headquarters and a shareholder meeting - Indigenous women leaders and allies advocated against unwanted extractive development in Indigenous territories, and raised a call for adherence to the standards of Indigenous rights and human rights law, and meaningful action to divest funds from fossil fuel companies.
At the Credit Suisse annual shareholder meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, the Divestment Delegation presented powerful statements - speaking with fierce truth and dignity to expose exactly how the bank's money has contributed both historically and currently to violations of Indigenous rights, human rights, and the health of the global climate and water.
The Spring 2018 Delegation was comprised of both frontline community leaders, and tribal officials who serve or have served in official capacities for their Tribal Nations - Charlene Aleck (Elected councillor for Tsleil Waututh Nation, Sacred Trust Initiative, Canada); Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle (Oglala Lakota and Mdewakantonwan Dakota pediatrician, living and working on the Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota); Wasté Win Yellowlodge Young (Ihunktowanna/ Hunkpapa of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Former Tribal Historic Preservation Officer); Monique Verdin (Member of South Louisiana's United Houma Nation Tribal Council and the Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative); and Michelle Cook (Diné/Navajo, human rights lawyer) - along with Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International Executive Director).
Two of the banks that the Delegation met with over this and previous delegations - UBS and DNB - both chose to not renew their credit facilities with Energy Transfer Partners (the company behind the Dakota Access, Bayou Bridge, and other pipelines) at the end of last year, removing hundreds of millions of dollars from the table. Recently, HSBC announced it will no longer provide financing for new tar sands projects, and BNP Paribas made a similar announcement last year.
Explore coverage of this delegation via The Ecologist article - Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation Calls On Banks To Withdraw Funding From Fossil Fuels
Read the feature article by Michelle Cook and Osprey Orielle Lake via EcoWatch - Standing Against the Banks: DAPL Divestment and Water Protectors' Fight for Justice, Indigenous Rights, Water and Life
Divestment Delegates and Swiss allies during a direct action outside of Credit Suisse and UBS banks in Zurich - Photo via Alexander Boethius/WECAN International
The Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation on 55 Wall Street, the original New York Stock Exchange, making the historical connections between patriarchy, colonization and capitalism - Photo via Teena Pugliese
A fourth Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation traveled to New York City and Washington D.C. in October 2018 - where women leaders took action and engaged in high-level meetings with major credit rating agency, Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), and bank association, the Equator Principle Association - whose policies and decisions significantly impact the forecasts for investments in fossil fuel projects around the world.
October 2018 Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation members brought with them knowledge, data and analysis, and personal testimony as women leaders active in struggles including opposition of the Dakota Access, Bayou Bridge, Keystone XL, and Line 3 Pipeline. Delegates were - Wasté Win Yellowlodge Young (Ihunktowanna/ Hunkpapa of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Former Tribal Historic Preservation Officer); Jessica Parfait (United Houma Nation, Graduate student at Louisiana State University exploring impacts of oil and gas on Houma tribal communities); Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe, Tribal attorney, National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, and former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders); Michelle Cook (Diné, Human rights lawyer); and Leoyla Cowboy (Diné, member of The Red Nation, and community organizer for the Water Protector Legal Collective) - joined by Osprey Orielle Lake (Executive Director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network).
Michelle Cook speaks out during a meeting in NYC - Photo via Teena Pugliese
In New York City, delegation members met with the MSCI credit rating agency representatives to share testimony and demands for urgently needed changes to their policies and procedures, which currently enable dangerous extraction and rights violations. Ongoing exchanges and advocacy are now underway with MSCI.
Alongside Rainforest Action Network and other allies, the Delegation also took action outside of a central Chase bank in Manhattan to demand that Chase completely remove themselves from the tar sands sector.
A core focus of the action was bringing attention to Chase's immoral plans to continue financial credit lines to Line 3 pipeline, which has not received consent from the Indigenous Peoples whose territories and rights are being affected, and which is furthering fossil fuel development despite clear scientific warnings that extraction must stop if the global community is to respect the Paris Climate Agreement and stay below a 1.5 degree rise in global temperature. Watch a live video of the NYC Chase bank action here.
In Washington D.C., the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation participated in a meeting with Equator Principles Association representatives, again delivering vital data and stories from their communities.
The Equator Principles Association includes 94 of the largest international banks, who have voluntarily signed-on to due diligence standards that should guide member banks away from supporting projects which endanger the Earth, human and Indigenous rights, and communities.
After human rights violations at Standing Rock, the EP Association promised to review and update the Equator Principles, however in the meantime, EP banks have continued to support dangerous extractive projects including Energy Transfer Partner's Bayou Bridge Pipeline, Enbridge's Line 3, and TransCanada's Keystone XL.
Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation and allies prepare for action outside
Chase bank in New York City - Photo via Erik McGregor
Through the Delegation and the Divest, Invest, Protect program, we are specifically calling for EP banks to implement full respect for Indigenous rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent; outline a detailed timeline for a managed decline of investments in fossil fuels; and vigorous investments in regenerative, renewable energy.
A public action was also organized outside of the EP banks annual member meeting, during which Indigenous women delegates and allied organizational leaders sent a message to those inside, and engaged the public and the media about the need for full divestment from fossil fuels and respect for Indigenous rights. Watch the live video from the Equator Principles bank action here.
Over two weeks in early October 2017, a second Delegation traveled to Germany, Switzerland and Norway to follow up and continue forward motion on advocacy efforts, and participate in a variety of strategic platforms; high-level bank, insurance company and government meetings; public events; and press conferences.
Delegates shared their experiences and analysis, emphasizing that Indigenous people are demanding their rights as outlined in international law (including Free, Prior and Informed Consent), and calling for divestment of corporate level or project level finance from extractive fossil fuel projects at the source and in infrastructure, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, Line 3 and Keystone XL, which threaten Indigenous rights, sovereignty, lands and ways of life.
Autumn 2017 Delegation members included - LaDonna BraveBull Allard (Lakota historian, member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and founder/landowner of Sacred Stone Camp); Michelle Cook (Diné/Navajo, human rights lawyer and a founding member of the of the Water Protector Legal Collective at Standing Rock); Jackie Fielder (Mnicoujou Lakota and Mandan-Hidatsa, Campaign Coordinator of Lakota People's Law Project and organizer with Mazaska Talks); and Tara Houska (Anishinaabe, tribal attorney, National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, and former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders); alongside Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International Executive Director).
Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation To Europe, Autumn 2017 (left to right): Michelle Cook (Diné/Navajo), LaDonna Brave Bull Allard ( Standing Rock Sioux Lakota), Tara Houska (Anishinaabe), and Jackie Fielder (Mnicoujou Lakota and Mandan-Hidatsa) in Norway - Photo via Teena Pugliese
Over the course of this Autumn 2017 Delegation, WECAN International organized ten high-level meetings, including with Norwegian Parliamentarians, DNB, the Council on Ethics to the Norwegian Oil Fund, UBS, Credit Suisse, Zurich Insurance, Swiss Re Insurance, BayernLB, Allianz, Deutsche Bank and organized two strategy sessions with local groups in Switzerland and Germany and held three public events.
The Delegation was invited to return by Norwegian Parliamentarians to support further efforts to include Indigenous rights in the guidelines of the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund. Reuters reported on the Delegation's divestment meeting with the Council on Ethics to the Norwegian Sovereign Fund held on October 3rd 2017, after the Council stated that it is now reviewing allegations that Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline company behind Dakota Access Pipeline and many others, may be breaching the fund’s investment guidelines related to the environment, human rights and other issues.
On November 21, 2017 the executives of the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund recommended to the Norwegian Parliament that all gas and oil investments be removed from the fund. In December of 2017, DNB and UBS, two of the banks the Delegation met with and sent evidence to regarding rights violations, chose not to renew ETP’s credit facilities with their institutions.
Listen to Michelle Cook share more about this work on Rising Up With Sonali - Indigenous Women Take Pipeline Activism
Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation presenting at a public event in Oslo, Norway - Photo via WECAN International
Autumn 2017 Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation with members of the Norwegian Parliament - Photo via WECAN International
During the Spring 2017 Delegation, women leaders engaged in many high level meetings, including with the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, DNB (the Bank of Norway), the Norwegian Parliament, Credit Suisse Bank, and UBS. The Delegation was covered by international news outlets and on national television and radio in Norway and Switzerland, helping to raise awareness and to bring more pressure to financial institutions to divest (please see media links below!). The Delegation also met with local Indigenous Sami leaders and other local groups for further solidarity and movement building.
In Norway, the advocacy of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation was instrumental in pushing DNB bank to sell their $331 million dollar credit line to DAPL, following strong advocacy efforts from many groups, and an independent investigation in which DNB affirmed the violation of Indigenous rights and failure to properly consult the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Delegates of the first Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation to Norway and Switzerland included Dr. Sarah Jumping Eagle (Oglala Lakota and Mdewakantonwan Dakota living and working on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation); Wasté Win Young (Ihunktowanna/Hunkpapa of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Former Tribal Historic Preservation Officer); Michelle Cook (Diné/Navajo, human rights lawyer and a founding member of the of the Water Protector Legal Collective at Standing Rock); Tara Houska (Anishinaabe, tribal attorney, National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, and former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders); and Autumn Chacon (Diné/Navajo writer and performance artist); along with Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International Executive Director).
Learn more via the feature article in EcoWatch - Indigenous Women of Standing Rock Resistance Movement Speak Out on Divestment
Spring 2017 Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation representatives in Norway - Photo via WECAN International
Tara Houska and Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle on national television in Norway speaking out for divestment - Photo via WECAN International