Robeson County, NC is home to the Lumbee Tribe, the largest non-reservation tribe in the country. It’s also the proposed endpoint of a new natural gas pipeline, a dangerous coal ash impoundment, and a proposed chicken processing plant slated to be built at the intersection of three important wetland areas. A new organization, EcoRobeson, was established after an Environmental Summit was held in Pembroke in late 2015. The group, comprised of Lumbee tribal members and concerned residents in the area, is working to resist these destructive plans and re-imagine a future for the region that is both economically just and ecologically sustainable.
Working Films and Storyline partnered with EcoRobeson to bring the Water Warriors photo exhibit to the Lumbee Powwow, the Dance of the Spring Moon. Water Warriors documents the native Mi’kmaq Nation in New Brunswick Canada, who resisted attempts by a Texas energy company to drill for natural gas on their land. Our partners at EcoRobeson were eager to use Water Warriors to demonstrate that resistance is possible, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition.
The Lumbee Spring Powwow is a gathering where people from Robeson County and other tribes from around the country gather for a traditional native dancing competition. The powwow included traditional Native American food, arts, crafts, singing, music and dance, along with the centerpiece dance and drum competitions.
Over 100 youth, young families, and elders viewed the photos and listened to audio recordings of the captions, learning more about the dangers of fracking and the organizing tactics that can be used to resist it. A few visitors mentioned hearing about the struggle in New Brunswick and said that the Water Warriors’ exhibit better illustrated what they’d seen in the news.
Our partners at EcoRobeson, who presented the exhibit, wanted to educate their neighbors about environmental issues in their community and increase their base of active supporters. We encouraged participants to join EcoRobeson and sign a petition opposing the construction of the natural gas pipeline. The pipeline is slated to be built on an elders land that could be taken by eminent domain. The group’s next step will be to hold a public hearing on the proposed plan. All of those who signed up will be invited to participate in the hearing and other upcoming events.
EcoRobeson organizers were impressed by the impact Water Warriors had, and are eager to bring bring it back to the Lumbee Homecoming in Summer 2016. We are in conversation about starting an ongoing film series in Robeson County featuring environmental justice themed films.