Mountaintop removal mining: a trio from Tumblr
Thought I’d post these over here, for a wider audience. 🙂
The story of the Battle of Blair Mountain starts in the southern coal camps of West Virginia, a time when King Coal reigned supreme, openly and without apology.
Mining companies owned workers’ homes; they owned the schools, the air and water; they owned the police and even private armies. They owned miners’ lives.
Which is why murder seemed permissible. When a notorious strikebreaker shot down labor hero Sheriff Sid Hatfield, who refused to be bought by the coal companies, more than 10,000 enraged miners and pro-union forces rose up in Mingo and Logan Counties and converged on Blair Mountain. A private army of management mercenaries shot guns and dropped leftover bombs from WWI—it was the nation’s largest armed conflict since the Civil War and the largest labor confrontation ever.
Don’t know about the Battle of Blair Mountain? There’s a reason for that. West Virginia—a state still dominated by the coal industry and its political interests— has resisted highlighting the battle in history books and has denied commemoration attempts. When the federal National Register of Historic places chose the historic site for protection, the state—working with coal company lawyers—contested the decision. The site was de-listed last year, when West Virginia state officials submitted a “revised” list of 57 landowners supposedly objecting to the historic preservation decision. The list even included 2 dead people.
This Battle of Blair Mountain continues today. Coal companies stand literally to erase this history by obliterating the mountain.
It was the only time in the history of the U.S. that the government ordered military aircraft used against its own people…
Following the battle, 985 miners were indicted for “murder, conspiracy to commit murder, accessory to murder, and treason against the State of West Virginia.” Though some were acquitted by sympathetic juries, many were also imprisoned for a number of years, though they were paroled in 1925.
[ETA: A bit late, but I’ve barely been online lately, and hadn’t checked my mail in a week.]
From an e-mail from CREDO Action (unusually, their link goes straight to the march website). If I were in the US, you couldn’t keep me away from the rally. A lot of my biodad’s family lives in that area, and the destruction is almost unbelievable.
And very few people outside the area know or care.
Historic Blair Mountain is under assault by coal companies that want to use explosives to literally blow its top off.
From June 6th-11th, hundreds of people will be marching to Blair Mountain to protest mountaintop removal mining and the destruction of Blair Mountain. The marchers, young and old, will be coming from miles around to stand up to big coal. They’ll be gathering in Charleston on the evening of June 4th for a day of training and preparation. They’ll then be marching 13 miles a day arriving in Blair on the evening of June 10th.
On June 11th, there will be a rally and day of action on Blair Mountain, featuring musicians and prominent leaders including Robert Kennedy, Jr.
The fight against mountaintop removal mining is one of the most important of my generation, so I’ll be making the drive from Washington, DC to attend the rally.
Will you join us in taking a stand to save Blair Mountain from devastating coal mining? There are two ways for you to get involved:
1. Sign up to attend the rally on June 11th in Blair, West Virginia. There will be speakers and music at this day-long event. After a 2.5 mile hike to the summit of Blair Mountain, Robert Kennedy Jr. will give a speech.
2. If you can attend for the full week of June 4th-11th — and are comfortable walking 13 miles a day in the summer heat — you can participate in the full march. Click here to learn more and register for the march.
In 1921, the largest unionization battle in American history took place at Blair Mountain in West Virginia. Coal miners in Blair fought against coal companies for decent living and working conditions, in an episode that has become a symbol for the fight against big coal.
Now, coal companies like Massey Energy and Arch Coal have plans to use explosives on Blair Mountain to access the coal it contains. In fact, one active mountaintop removal site is already active within a few hundred yards of the of the historic 1921 battle.1
Mountaintop removal is the most environmentally destructive form of strip mining there is. After the forests are clear cut and the tops of the mountains are blasted off with explosives, the remains of the mountain are bulldozed into nearby valleys and streams.2
At the March on Blair Mountain, and at next Saturday’s rally, concerned citizens will fight to save Blair Mountain and put an end to mountaintop removal mining. I hope you can join me at the rally.
Thanks for fighting to save Blair Mountain.
Josh Nelson, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
1. A Local Struggle to Save an Appalachian Mountain is a Battle for us All, Change.org, May 25, 2011.
2. What is Mountaintop Removal Mining?, Mountain Justice
In today’s “civilized” world it is imperative for those of us who embrace our native heritage and culture to become a voice for the voiceless. Our Sacred Elders could not have envisioned the heinous, hideous monstrosity called Mountain Top Removal. We have no word for total devastation. It was beyond their comprehension that the invaders could one day be capable of an act that would degrade and defile our sacred life giver in the name of manifest destiny. To predict such unbridled greed and avarice was not within their realm of possibility.
We must speak on behalf of our elders, as well as those of other cultures in Appalachia whose blood and sweat permeates these Appalachia Mountains. We must honour the Irish, the German, the Hebrew, the Italian, the African and dozens of other ethnicities that came to these mountains in a good way of honour, courage and respect, searching for a good life for themselves. They sought only to be left in peace and to thrive among and within the lushness of these wonderful mountains…
Without question we believe MTR to be nothing less than a continuation of capitalist genocide against the indigenous poor of Appalachia. MTR is a roving juggernaut crashing through Appalachia destroying everything, not only in it’s path , but it’s deadly tentacles reach around this sacred planet with toxins and debris, while greedy CEO’s make in excess of 20 million dollars per year at the cost of Appalachian lives.
It is time for good, decent and courageous folk of all cultures, heritage’s and ethnicity’s to take a stand against the destruction of Mother Earth. This is not a futuristic prediction. It’s happening right here, right now.
ETA at WordPress: The author would be Eastern Blackfoot (i.e., specific group of Yesah or “Saponi/Tutelo”–and I use both names because the outsiders who applied them* didn’t know who they were dealing with half the time**), with no connection to the Siksika out west. A fairly common point of confusion. And I left in the other ethnicities bit, because it echoes some things I’ve mentioned here before, notably in Regional bias, and racism by association. People who behave respectfully, I don’t have any problem with, nor does the AIM-affiliated author. And, this ties in, because it’s all about the respect. For all our relations and the Earth itself. People who can justify destroying mountains and whole streams–and all the beings, including humans, depending on them to live–for profit don’t really respect anyone or anything around them.
* Talk about more of a macro than microaggression: keeping reading and hearing things like “the last surviving Tutelo”. Don’t some people wish… 😐
I am reminded yet again of Kahentinetha Horn’s darkly hilarious Myth Busters in Montreal (‘”Mysterious” disappearance and re-appearance of the St. Lawrence Iroquois – colonial reports about our death and disappearance are premature and should not be taken seriously’):
We were curious as to how they got the idea that we had “disappeared” or that there was any mystery to be solved. How would anyone feel if their so-called demise was advertised and put on exhibit? It’s like finding yourself invited to your own wake when you’re not dead. It really bugged us. Can you understand? It felt like a death threat. It reminded us of the way we were all told at school that our moms, dad, brothers, sisters, grandparents, everyone were all going to die out. We cried. By now we know a terrorist threat when we see one.
** To the point of confusing Siouan-speaking Monacans or Mohetans (also Yesah, who would fall under the “Tutelo” umbrella by old usage), Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee, Tsoyaha (Yuchi) whose language has a family to itself, and the probably Algonquian-speaking Conoy/Kanawha. And so on. Seriously. They didn’t do neat European-style national boundaries, and the next town over might be a different Nation, but not being able to tell the difference between people using totally different language families, to the point of Basque, Samoan, and Korean–or considering it important enough to do so? Geez.