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Brighton residents attend Gulf climate rally

Martha Tommie, left, joins a fellow Native American at the “Gulf Gathering for Climate Justice and Joy.” (Courtesy photo)

Activists, including some from the Seminole Tribe, will go to great lengths and travel far distances to protect water and the environment. In 2016, Martha Tommie went to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

On June 4, Tommie and Linda Gore drove from the Brighton Reservation to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to make their voices heard at the “Gulf Gathering for Climate Justice and Joy.” Tommie spoke at the event, which drew more than 500 people from across the Gulf region.

“We are trying to save the Everglades,” Tommie told the crowd. “I came here to gain knowledge and learn. This gives me strength and hope that I can stand for anything. This is important. The people, land, water, trees and everything God created for us is to protect it, not to destroy it.”

The event was organized by Gulf South for a Green New Deal, a coalition of more than 300 organizations from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Puerto Rico who work toward achieving climate, racial and economic justice. The day brought together representatives of some of the areas most affected by the oil and gas industry.

The program began with Native and African drumming and a blessing by members of the United Houma Nation of Louisiana. The Poarch Creek Nation was also represented along with the Golden Feather Hunters and the Congo Square Preservation Society.

The gathering focused on the importance of finding joy in the fight to preserve the Gulf area. Speakers shared their stories and their struggles, but the celebration of food, music, dance and culture were part of the program to demonstrate joy can be found while coming together for a cause.

“I’m trying to be a leader and to be up front,” Tommie said. “It makes me humble to be here and talk about the water, the land and the humanity. It was good to see other Natives here, including a friend I in met at Standing Rock. That’s what we do; we stand together and fight against the enemy.”

The event also included workshops on the future of offshore energy, climate in a global context and planning a sustainable future. Plenty of music and dancing took place between speeches and sessions, including Zydeco, Cajun and Bomba.

“I came up here for the water and the justice and to look out for the future generations’ water because if we don’t stand now, nobody’s going to stand in the future,” Tommie said. “That’s why I came, to look out for my people and the Indigenous people.”

Linda Gore and Martha Tommie are at the center of a group supporting the “Gulf Gathering for Climate Justice and Joy” event in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on June 4. (Courtesy photo)
Martha Tommie, left, and Linda Gore attend the “Gulf Gathering for Climate Justice and Joy.” They are in a tent where numerous speakers and musicians performed June 4. (Courtesy photo)
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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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