The Nigerian Delta is home to many tribal groups including the Ogoni who have lived there for over 500 years. Several oil companies, including Shell, set up operations in the 1950s and since then, the land, water, and air have been polluted to such a great extent that the Ogoni people can no longer live safely in their own homeland.


1,581+ oil spill incidences were recorded in the Niger Delta with over 1.5+ million gallons of oil spilling into the water and farming grounds as a result of this one company — Shell. Shell has often left broken pipelines gushing out oil for days or even weeks without treating it. They also have done minimal cleanup when these incidents do occur, leaving these Native Tribes deeply effected. Shell has and continued to make billions of dollars off this land while the Natives see none of the money. They have no sewer system, no water-filtration, no hospitals, and it is not uncommon for drilling companies to tear up their farming land to get oil without their consent.

 Ken Saro-Wiwa

Ken Saro-Wiwa was an Ogoni poet, writer, and activist. He was able to bring awareness to the problems his people were facing. His voice was not only anti-drilling but was a voice to the voiceless. He raised his voice and wrote against the marginalizing of his people — being left in poverty and taken advantage of by these powerful governments and corporations. As Saro-Wiwa gained more popularity and gained more of a protesting following, he was executed.

Here is one of his poems titled, “The True Prison”

It is not the leaking roof
Nor the singing mosquitoes
In the damp, wretched cell
It is not the clank of the key
As the warden locks you in
It is not the measly rations
Unfit for beast or man
Nor yet the emptiness of day
Dipping into the blankness of night
It is not
It is not
It is not

It is the lies that have been drummed
Into your ears for a generation
It is the security agent running amok
Executing callous calamitous orders
In exchange for a wretched meal a day
The magistrate writing into her book
A punishment she knows is undeserved
The moral decrepitude
The mental ineptitude
The meat of dictators
Cowardice masking as obedience
Lurking in our denigrated souls
It is fear damping trousers
That we dare not wash
It is this
It is this
It is this
Dear friend, turns our free world
Into a dreary prison


Stories Untold

Native stories often go untold because they are trumped by big corporations and white ideologies. However, this story is all-encompassing, since it deals with our environment. We have been in a world crisis with climate change. We are in the sixth mass extinction of species. Yet powerful corporations continue to dominate the narrative while the poor and Native voices are drowned out. We need to break-away from our Nationalistic American ideas and realize that the environmental problem is not limited to just us — nor can it be solved by just us. We must realize that global corporations are killing our land and the people that live on it. So many realities like this are happening all over, yet we are so unaware because money can silence the protest. Well, I say, we must continue to protest as Saro-Wiwa did. Even in the face of death. The reality is we are facing the death of the earth and are still not doing enough to save it.

Be free in the present,

Trace Maddox

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