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Mazaska talks: The largest protest ever of banks’ investment in fossil fuels

Olympia’s Raging Grannies pictured here delivering a letter (very politely, despite their name) to the managers of Wells Fargo Bank on the Westside as part of the Divest the Globe day of action October 23. It was the same letter that was delivered to bank managers all over the state and nation, promising to boycott banks investing in fossil fuel projects. Wells Fargo’s location at the intersection of Black Lake Boulevard and Auto Mall Drive makes it impossible to ignore our ruinous dependence on fossil fuels. And Raging Grannies are the very Elders you expect to find at protests led by indigenous peoples.

Divest the Globe grew out of indigenous people’s opposition to construction of a new oil pipeline (Dakota Access Pipeline—DAPL) at Standing Rock, in North and South Dakota. After the Defund DAPL Seattle Action Coalition convinced the Seattle City Council to remove $3 billion in municipal funds from Wells Fargo, organizers saw the potential for a much broader movement.

The right of “free, prior and informed consent”

The Divest actions were timed to coincide with protests at the meeting in Brazil of 92 international banks. The banks were there to discuss their “Equator Principles,” which relate to the management of “environmental and social” risk in their financing decisions.

The global protests are intended to draw attention to the futility of the Equator Principles in upholding the principle of “free, prior and informed consent” as a right of indigenous peoples of sovereign nations. This principle is routinely overlooked, as in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline and other desecration projects

“Follow the mazaska”

Matt Remle, a member of the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe (Standing Rock) speaking at SPSCC at the Rachel Corrie Foundation PeaceWorks Conference earlier this month described how he and others decided to “follow the money” and nationalize their effort.

He and Muckleshoot tribal member Rachel Heaton then started “Mazaska Talks” which now connects with groups in cities and countries around the world. “Mazaska” is the Lakota word for…money.

Ending the desecration of the earth

“Divest the Globe” is part of the Mazaska Talks strategy to deprive new fossil fuel projects of bank financing in service of the larger aim of ending the desecration of the earth’s communities and interrupting climate catastrophe. Expansion of the movement has led to many more fossil-fuel-related divestitures, including nearly $85 million in individual accounts and over $4 billion in municipal accounts moved from banks funding DAPL.

Mazaska Talks, according to Remle, has learned and gained confidence from successes in Seattle and experiences at the Standing Rock encampment. They are formulating a set of criteria by which lenders can be scored in seeking contracts with cities. They plan to match disinvestment with reinvestment, looking toward financing for affordable housing and low-interest lending. Tribes are initiating a feasibility study to look at the possibility of tribal-owned banks. They are also building relationships with people in other countries, sending mainly native women to Europe’s hidden towns to see first-hand the destructive exploitation of resources by globe-spanning corporations there.

Mary Jo Dolis is an on-again off-again local writer and accommodating granny.

To find out more about the movement and the boycott go to

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