First-in-the-Nation Lawsuit Seeks Recognition of Rights for the Colorado River

The 2015 Gold King Mine waste water spill in the Animas River, in southwest Colorado.  The Animas is a tributary to the Colorado River. Image: Riverhugger, CC BY SA 4.0

“Contemporary public concern for protecting nature’s ecological equilibrium should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation.” Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Sierra Club v. Morton (1972)

Denver, Colorado–In a first-in-the-nation lawsuit filed in federal court, the Colorado River is asking for judicial recognition of itself as a “person,” with rights of its own to exist and flourish. The lawsuit, filed against the Governor of Colorado, seeks a recognition that the State of Colorado can be held liable for violating those rights held by the River.

The Plaintiff in the lawsuit is the Colorado River itself, with the organization Deep Green Resistance – a national organization committed to protecting the planet through direction action – filing as a “next friend” on behalf of the River. The River and the organization are represented in the lawsuit by Jason Flores Williams, a noted civil rights lawyer and lead attorney in a recent class-action case filed on behalf of Denver’s homeless population.

While this is the first action brought in the United States which seeks such recognition for an ecosystem, such actions and laws are becoming more common in other countries. In 2008, the country of Ecuador adopted the world’s first national constitution which recognized rights for ecosystems and nature; over three dozen U.S. municipalities, including the City of Pittsburgh, have adopted similar laws; and courts in India and Colombia have recently recognized that rivers, glaciers, and other ecosystems may be treated as “persons” under those legal systems.

Serving as an advisor to the lawsuit is the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a nonprofit public interest law firm which has previously assisted U.S. municipalities and the Ecuadorian government to codify legally enforceable rights for ecosystems and nature into law.

Attorney Flores-Williams explained that “current environmental law is simply incapable of stopping the widescale environmental destruction that we’re experiencing. We’re bringing this lawsuit to even the odds – corporations today claim rights and powers that routinely overwhelm the efforts of people to protect the environment. Our judicial system recognizes corporations as “persons,” so why shouldn’t it recognize the natural systems upon which we all depend as having rights as well? I believe that future generations will look back at this lawsuit as the first wave of a series of efforts to free nature and our communities from a system of law which currently guarantees their destruction.”

Deanna Meyer, a member of Deep Green Resistance and one of the “next friends” in the lawsuit, affirmed Flores-Williams’ sentiments, declaring that “without the recognition that the Colorado River possesses certain rights of its own, it will always be subject to widescale exploitation without any real consequences. I’m proud to stand with the other “next friends” in this lawsuit to enforce and defend the rights of the Colorado, and we’re calling on groups across the country to do the same to protect the last remaining wild places in this country and beyond.”

The lawsuit seeks recognition by the Court that the Colorado River Ecosystem possesses the rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and restoration, and to recognize that the State of Colorado may be held liable for violating those rights in a future action. The complaint will be filed in the US District Court of Colorado on Tuesday.


Media inquiries:

Law Office of Jason Flores-Williams



Thomas Linzey, Executive Director, CELDF


Posted in Lobbying | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Subscribe to DGR email lists for news & events

We’re improving some technical things on our end for blog subscriptions.

To subscribe to news & events for this chapter and/or for our international lists, use the form in the sidebar, or browse all DGR lists.

If you received this post by email, it means you’re subscribed via You’ll keep getting emails for regular posts, but not for calendar event postings or for exclusive alerts. To get them all, subscribe to the list as described above. Then login at to unfollow from the old method.

If you have any questions or run into any problems, email

Posted in Movement Building & Support | Leave a comment

21st Century Manifest Destiny on the U.S.-Mexico Border

     by Todd Miller / nacla

A Border Patrol Checkpoint (Flickr)

A Border Patrol Checkpoint (Flickr)

It was a typical scene for many on the Tohono O’odham Nation: a Border Patrol agent pulled behind us in a green-striped vehicle after we had stopped to check directions. We were a group of five people in two cars. We had no idea what they wanted. Documentary filmmaker Adam Markle was going to interview tribal member Joshua Garcia at the San Miguel border gate, only a mile away. It was October 12, Columbus Day, a fitting date to be on the land of the Tohono O’odham.

The agents were about to give us a taste of what the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona described in extensive detail in a new report. It says that Border Patrol practices along this 2,000-mile border have become “de facto stop and frisk.” It also asserts that this border Native American reservation, which hugs the U.S.-Mexico boundary and is only a fraction of its original land, has become a prototype of a “modern day police state.”

After stepping out of the car to briefly speak to Markle, I looked back at the agent who had his radio up to his mouth and was mumbling some unintelligible code. Dressed in a forest green Border Patrol uniform, he had a crew cut and sunglasses. The cloth name badge on his shirt said Kozma. Behind him in the distance was the sacred Baboquivari peak, on the edge of the Nation. Since the lights on his vehicle were not flashing, I asked him if he was detaining us. His response was not clear, but I thought I heard “You can go ahead.”

I walked back towards the other car.

Kozma yelled, “Stop! I told you to. Stay. There.”

I looked at him. “I thought—”

“Get there,” he yelled pointing to the driver’s door of Markle’s car, “by the door. You disobeyed my order.” I noticed his hand was on the black handle of his holstered gun.

“I misheard you,” I said.

“Stay there,” he snapped.

At this point two more Homeland Security vehicles with their sirens blaring pulled in fast as if this were the moment everybody had been waiting for. When Kozma walked back towards his truck, his hand was still on his gun.

Minutes earlier we had been driving down what deceivingly seemed like a lonely two lane road to do the basic journalistic task of conducting an interview.

However, things can change rapidly in the United States’ 100-mile-wide border enforcement jurisdiction. Here, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), within which the Border Patrol is located, operates with extra-constitutional powers and a counterterror mission that prepares agents to be at war. The constant presence of these heavily armed U.S. federal agents has completely changed life on “the rez.”

It wasn’t always this way. When Joshua Garcia, a member of the Tohono O’odam Hemajkan Rights Network (TOHRN) was growing up in the nearby Chukut Kuk district, there were a few agents. But the O’odham moved unencumbered and crossed freely back and forth over the international boundary on their traditional lands, which extend hundreds of miles into Mexico, to go to school, go to the clinic, visit family and friends, and to see sacred sites.

Garcia remembers when it all changed. There was a night in the mid-1990s when he looked over the western horizon, over the reservation, and saw the sky light up, filled with helicopters and aircraft.

“It was like Red Dawn,” he laughed, referring to the 2012 movie that ridiculously depicts the invasion of the United States by the North Korean military.

Garcia said that he always associated that night with an incident that happened three days later. Border Patrol agents showed up at his aunt’s house. They said they were tracking footprints into her yard. Was she hiding anybody in the house? She told them that they were the footprints of the children, trick-or-treating, from Halloween.

Now the number of Border Patrol agents has gone from few and far between to, as put by tribal member Mike Wilson, an “occupying army.” Garcia says that “it feels like you’re being watched, all the time” on the Nation. According to the ACLU report, the Nation has become “inundated” with Border Patrol infrastructure. Indeed, the reservation today feels like the location of a post-9/11 Indian war, a collision of centuries.

Less than a mile from where we stood, detained in the hot sun, is a substation that the Border Patrol shares with the Tohono O’odham police department. Scope trucks dot the hills, implanted motion sensors monitor foot movement, and surveillance cameras can see at night and during the day. Drones and helicopter do frequent overflights, and I’ve witnessed heavily armed border agents dressed in camouflage patrol the sacred Baboquivari mountain range in search, they say, of smugglers. On the other side of the reservation, which is the size of the state of Connecticut, is a Forward Operating Base, much like the small, rudimentary bases used in U.S. war zones.

Around the periphery of the reservation are DHS checkpoints, placed so that you can’t avoid them if you leave the reservation on a paved road. This is a second, internal layer of border enforcement.

For the O’odham the movement of everyday life has become rife with difficulties. According to the ACLU report, agents brandishing weapons during normal traffic stops on the reservation is now routine. Agents have stopped and detained a school bus “more than a dozen times.” Each time Border Patrol forces the students to stand out in the heat as they rifle through their personal belongings. One family said that the agents pulled them over after they returned home to retrieve a forgotten item, apparently a “suspicious” act.

Over the years, I have heard stories from many people, most who wish to remain anonymous. I have heard about a Tohono O’odham health worker who Border Patrol pulled over after she picked up patients to transport them to a dialysis center. I have heard about Border Patrol blocking a funeral procession and then showing up at the cemetery during the burial. I have heard about Border Patrol using this burial ground (and other sacred places) as a shooting range and driving all over it with ATVs. A man told me that he was simply driving north from the international divide when Border Patrol pulled him over, and six agents surrounded him armed with automatic, high-caliber weapons. He never learned what it was that set them off.

I interviewed a man named Arturo Garcia who said Border Patrol pulled him out of his car, pepper-sprayed him, and then knocked him out with a crack of a baton.

Tohono O’odham Nellie Jo David, a student of indigenous peoples law and policy, also a member of TOHRN, put it this way: “We can’t visit family, go to the store, attend meetings, participate in our culture, grab a bite somewhere, or say hi to our friends without being accused of something… It is NOT their land. They should NOT have this unfettered power. I’m willing to fight for as long as I live to get that message across.” What David describes is strikingly reminiscent to internal controls of mobility in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The comparison is not a stretch: the private company Elbit Systems, the lead system integrator of Israel’s border technology plan, is poised to build 15 surveillance towers on the Tohono O’odham Nation in 2016.

While Border Patrol presence is particularly striking on the reservation, the ACLU lists off what they call “rampant civil rights abuses” that are occurring throughout the 2,000-mile stretch of borderlands: everything from tailgating at high speeds, to wielding weapons such as knives, electroshock guns, and assault weapons during routine traffic stops.

Using cases from heavily redacted documents obtained from Customs and Border Protection (the parent agency of the Border Patrol), the ACLU alleges that agents’ “violent, reckless, and threatening” conduct is not that of just a few bad apples. It is the routine behavior of this Homeland Security force, which is the only agency permitted by law to use a person’s ethnicity as a reason to pull someone over. When the Obama administration issued new rules in attempt to curtail racial profiling, the one huge exception was homeland security operations. As one DHS official told the New York Times, “We can’t do our job without taking ethnicity into account. We are very dependent on that.”

This verbally and sometimes physically abusive routine conduct of the U.S. Border Patrol, according to the report, is not limited just to the reservation. In one case, a Border Patrol agent told a woman to “put the fucking keys in the truck” at an interior checkpoint west of Tucson after a false canine alert. When she objected to the language, the agent responded by saying “I can talk to you any fucking way I want.” The agent then explained to his supervisor that he felt a “more forceful approach was needed in order to convey her need to follow my direction.”

In another incident, a woman asked why the Border Patrol detained her in Tucson, sixty miles from the border, when she was driving in her car to drop off her two children at school in March 2011. The agents first told her that her Ford Expedition “was running low,” and then, “we’ll think of something.”

When I asked Border Patrol Agent Kozma why we were being detained, he did not answer. He might have been distracted, alas, because another agent, Rodriguez, was walking in his direction.

Moments later Rodriguez called me over to his vehicle. He told us we couldn’t be on Tohono O’odham land without the permission of the tribal government. He called over Markle, and then took both our identifications. He looked at us and said, “This is not an abuse,” as if he were simultaneously sick of and worried about the subject matter. He asked why we were in this area, only “a mile from the border.” It wasn’t safe, he told us. There had been a lot of crossings. You are “unarmed,” he said, we can’t protect you.

The agent then asked me why I had approached Kozma “aggressively.” I was so startled by Rodriguez’s assertion that I laughed. “I didn’t approach him aggressively,” I replied. Kozma quickly shot back saying that I had not obeyed his orders. (Fifteen minutes later Kozma would yell at me again when I attempted to retrieve a water bottle from the vehicle. “I don’t know what you have in the car,” he told me).

Then, almost following the script of the ACLU report, the agent said that Markle’s California plate was suspicious. Rodriguez told us that when they saw a California plate, it was “either someone running stolen cars or drugs.” That’s why they had to pull us over.

This whole thing ended when J. Scott, who was a tall, white police agent from the Tohono O’odham Police Department – one of many such non-O’odham in the force – told us we had to leave the reservation. He said if he caught us filming he would arrest us for “trespassing.” When Garcia stepped forward and explained that he was Tohono O’odham, from the Chukut Kuk District, J. Scott told him he was not from that district. The insinuation was clear: even within the reservation movement is controlled and suppressed. Scott and the Border Patrol vehicles “escorted” us away from the border, from the land of Garcia’s grandparents going back at least a thousand years. That Columbus Day on the Tohono O’odham Nation it didn’t only seem like the Nation was living only in a state of “de facto stop and frisk,” but also in a continued state of Manifest Destiny.

Todd Miller is the author of  Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security. You can follow him on Twitter @memomiller and view more of his work at

Article originally published November 25, 2015 on nacla

Posted in Colonialism & Conquest | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Katniss is real and she is an Apache

Naelyn Pike, a 16-year-old member of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, demonstrated in Times Square on Friday against a land swap between the federal government and a copper company that could affect land the protesters hold sacred. Photo credit: Standing Fox

Naelyn Pike, a 16-year-old member of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, demonstrated in Times Square on Friday against a land swap between the federal government and a copper company that could affect land the protesters hold sacred. Photo credit: Standing Fox

Katniss is real, and she is an Apache.

While we were all looking the other way, sacred Apache land (that was also property of the American people as a whole) was sold to an Australian-British mining company that will soon have the rights to leave a 2-mile crater in the area. How did this happen? Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake slipped the deal in at the last minute at the bottom of a much-needed military defense spending bill. Apache have been camped out on the sacred site of Oak Flat ever since, and this young warrior, along with a handful of others, traveled to NYC all the way from Arizona to try to bring attention to her people’s plight.

Let’s help this story spread and let this real life rebel know that she is not alone, and that the American people won’t stand for this betrayal to us all. 

– M.C. Rice

For more information about Oak Flat, see these articles:
Apache tribe brings battle for Oak Flat to New York’s Times Square
Selling Off Apache Holy Land
Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar Orders Apache Stronghold Visitors Removed by Capitol Police,Threatens Grandmothers With Arrest.


Visit the Apache Stronghold website for current updates and to find out what you can do to support the Apache in the fight to save Oak Flat.

Posted in Indigenous Autonomy, Mining & Drilling | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Arizona activists protest Israeli firms militarizing the border

Arizona activists protest Israeli firms militarizing the border, May 2015.

Arizona activists protest Israeli firms militarizing the border, May 2015.

On May 2, a few miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, just north of Nogales, on Tohono O’odham land, a group of activists unveiled a banner of protest in front of a new surveillance tower, manufactured and operated by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. The group came to bring border justice, indigenous rights and power, and anti-militarization movements together with the Southern Arizona BDS Network to confront the Israeli/US partnership that is militarizing the US/Mexico border with increasingly profound effects on the people of this region. As is the normal case for residents who live and work in this hyper-militarized border zone, on our excursion to the tower, it didn’t take long for a U.S. Border Patrol agent, on an all-terrain vehicle, to speed up and rush toward our group, asking us what we were up to—and asking us to leave.

Read more from the Southern Arizona BDS Network article.

Posted in Colonialism & Conquest, Protests & Symbolic Acts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Green Technology and Renewable Energy

Few topics generate more commentary on Deep Green Resistance social media than critiques of alternative energy. For many, solar, wind, and other non-fossil energy sources and technologies represent a pragmatic hope for saving the biosphere. Our position on these technologies is that they represent a false hope for a couple reasons. One, their manufacturing processes are fossil-fuel intensive and involve other nonrenewable resources like metals and plastics. Once built, solar panels and wind turbines have a limited life-span, after which they must be replaced. Two: even if they’re recycled, that process is itself toxic and energy-intensive, and must take place at specialized facilities, which means transportation, which means more fuels and infrastructure. Three: while in operation, both solar and wind facilities kill wildlife by displacement, collisions with turbines, burning in solar mirrors, and so on.

We’re not opposed to solutions to problems, as we’re often accused, only to solutions that have so many hidden costs they’re ultimately ineffective. Rather than prolong a system–industrialism–that cannot exist for long on a finite planet, our focus should instead be on a future that it actually sustainable, which by definition means one that eventually will not have artificial electricity in it. This future is coming one way or another; the only real question is how much of the living world will be left when it does.

Ivanpah Destruction 3



Solar Power - Not Sustainable



Wind Turbine Diagram

See the DGR page on green technology and renewable energy for answers to frequently asked questions.

Posted in Biodiversity & Habitat Destruction, Mining & Drilling | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: This Changes Everything

Naomi Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything, is based on the premise that capitalism is the cause of the climate crisis, and to avert catastrophe, capitalism must go. The proposed solution is a mass movement that will win with arguments that undermine the capitalist system by making it morally unacceptable.

This premise has many flaws. It fails to acknowledge the roots of capitalism and climate change, seeing them as independent issues that can be transformed without taking action to address the underlying causes. Climate change cannot be avoided by building more infrastructure and reforming the economy, as is suggested in the book. The climate crisis is merely a symptom of a deeper crisis, and superficial solutions that act on the symptoms will only make the situation worse. Human-induced climate change started thousands of years ago with the advent of land clearing and agriculture, long before capitalism came into being. The root cause—a culture that values domination of people and land, and the social and physical structures created by this culture—needs to be addressed for any action on capitalism or climate to be effective.

Read more of this book review by Kim Hill of Deep Green Resistance Australia on the Deep Green Resistance News Service.

Posted in Climate Change, Strategy & Analysis | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Decisive Ecological Warfare (DEW)

Decisive Ecological Warfare (DEW) is the strategy of a movement that has too long been on the defensive. It is the war cry of a people who refuse to lose any more battles, the last resort of a movement isolated, co-opted, and weary from never-ending legal battles and blockades.

The information in the DEW strategy is derived from military strategy and tactics manuals, analysis of historic resistances, insurgencies, and national liberation movements. The principles laid out within these pages are accepted around the world as sound principles of asymmetric warfare, where one party is more powerful than the other. If any fight was ever asymmetric, this one is.

The strategies and tactics explained in DEW are taught to military officers at places like the Military Academy at West Point for a simple reason: they are extremely effective.

When he was on trial in South Africa in 1964 for his crimes against the apartheid regime, Nelson Mandela said: “I do not deny that I planned sabotage. I did not do this in a spirit of recklessness. I planned it as a result of a long and sober assessment of the political situation after many years of oppression of my people by the whites.”

We invite you to read this strategy, and to undertake that same long and sober assessment of the situation we face. Time is short.


Deep Green Resistance DEW strategy:


Note: Though the resistance movement will have different phases and parts, the Deep Green Resistance organization is, will always be, and is committed to only being an aboveground group.

Posted in Property & Material Destruction, Strategy & Analysis | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Guilty of Being Brown

By Henry Howard

I had a nightmare the other night.
I dreamed I went to buy the morning paper,
And the headline screamed
For all the world to see,
“SB1070 Declared Fully Legal!”
And I cried, because I knew
I was now legally unwelcome here.

My mother took the paper and milk from me
With trembling hands,
And told me in her soft Mexican voice
That Papa had been arrested on his way to work.
For the crime of driving without a Green Card,
He was found Guilty of Being Brown.

We did not have time to kiss him goodbye,
Or even make him a sandwich
On his way back to a country he had not seen
In twenty years.

I woke with my heart pounding,
And my eyes full of tears.
I slowly relaxed,
Realizing it was just a dream.

Then I drove to the store in my first car,
And the morning paper screamed
For all the world to read,
“SB1070 Declared Fully Legal!”

It was my 16th birthday,
and now I, too,
Had been found Guilty of Being Brown.


From Poets Responding to SB 1070

Posted in Music & Art, White Supremacy | Tagged , | Leave a comment

On Violence

Excerpt from pages 79 to 80 of the book Deep Green Resistance, Chapter 3, Liberals and Radicals:

“Violence” is a broad category and we need to be clear what we’re talking about so that we can talk about it as a movement.  I would urge the following distinctions: the violence of hierarchy vs. the violence of self-defense, violence against people vs. violence against property, and the violence as self-actualization vs. the violence for political resistance.  It is difficult to find someone who is against all of these.  When clarified in context, the abstract concept of “violence” breaks down into distinct and concrete actions that need to be judged on their own merits.  It may be that in the end some people will still reject all categories of violence; that is a prerogative we all have as moral agents.  But solidarity is still possible, and is indeed a necessity given the seriousness of the situation and the lateness of the hour.  Wherever you personally fall on the issue of violence, it is vital to understand and accept its potential usefulness in achieving our collective radical ad feminist goals.

Posted in Direct Action, Strategy & Analysis | Tagged , | Leave a comment