Fifth Sunday of Easter – Take a Stand Against Fowl Industry Fouling Up Lumbee Land
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
As Catholics, we have a responsibility to stay rooted to the vine of Christ, reaching out into the world and protecting those who are most vulnerable. As evidenced by this blog series, the most vulnerable in North Carolina are dealing with the negative impacts of the destruction of local lands in a way that wealthier communities couldn’t even fathom. Indigenous populations, such as the Lumbee Tribe, are no exception.
The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is the largest tribe east of the Mississippi and members primarily live in the low-lying areas of Robeson county, as well as Hoke, Cumberland, and Scotland counties. The Lumbee Tribe has a deep connection with the earth, and their identity is rooted in the Lumbee River. A recent article by Tomeka Sinclair in The Robesonian highlights the Earth Day celebration of the Lumbee Tribe: “Earth Day is important to a lot of people but it’s especially important to the Lumbee people,” Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. said. “Four of our core values are our belief in God, value of an education, protection over our culture and connection to the lands. To us Earth Day is every day.”
Despite the Lumbee Tribe’s focus on protecting the earth, the poultry industry operating in the areas where the Lumbee live are recklessly abusing the land and risking the safety of these communities. A new investigation by the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance has found that from 2012 to 2019, the estimated number of chickens and turkeys in this area of North Carolina swelled from 83 million to 113 million, a 36% increase. The growth in poultry could produce up to one million tons of waste each year, in this area alone. Poultry waste isn’t treated and is stored in piles. These are the same counties in NC most affected by hog waste as well. Coupled with this, the geography of the area increases the likelihood of major flooding events during hurricanes like Florence and Matthew.
There has been virtually no oversight of the state’s poultry operations. The government of North Carolina is aware of the risks shouldered largely by minority populations. Although an Environmental Protection Agency review of a civil rights suit that was settled in 2018 has led to minor oversight of the hog industry, the poultry industry continues to grow in these local counties.
As stewards of creation, and the branches rooted to the vine of Christ, we have an obligation to advocate for the protection of this land. To do so, you can call or write to your senators and representative to take action to slow the growth of poultry industry in North Carolina. You can also donate to Waterkeeper Alliance, a grassroots initiative to provide everyone with clean water, or the Native American Rights Fund.
Let’s join with the Lumbee Tribe in their continued preservation of local lands and follow the guidance of Kaya Littleturtle, Lumbee Tribe cultural coordinator. She says: “Earth is our first mother. This is our lands. If we don’t take care of it, no one else will. Let’s continue this movement because you only have one Earth and if you mess her up you don’t get her back. We want to keep all of our grounds clean because it is a reflection on us as indigenous people.”
Lumbee Earth Day celebration 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3StaKRzQG0s (5 min video)
Exposing Fields of Filth: Factory Farms Disproportionately Threaten Black, Latino, and Native American North Carolinians: https://waterkeeper.org/news/update-exposing-fields-of-filth/ (8 min read)
Map of Factory Farms Disproportionately Threaten Black, Latino and Native American North Carolinians: https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/2020-fields-of-filth/map/
US Climate Resilience Toolkit-Tribal Nations: https://toolkit.climate.gov/topics/tribal-nations
Academic Paper by Ryan Emanuel, an Environmental Scientist and member of the Lumbee Tribe: https://academic.oup.com/envhis/article/24/1/25/5232296 (1 hour read)