By Camilla Feibelman
2019 ended with the deeply painful loss of Robert Tohe, a longtime Sierra Club Environmental Justice Organizer and a lifelong activist.
I first met Robert and his wife Hazel James in my early 20s. I’d just become the Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Media Coordinator. It was my job to travel around the country and support Sierra Club organizers who were hired from local communities to work on environmental justice issues. I’d come to Flagstaff to assist with an organizing training that combined an audience of anglo and indigenous activists who were working to stop the Peabody mine and the Mohave Generating Station. Many of the participants were finding something to be missing in the approach to the training. I remember watching Robert and Hazel move the group from conflict to contemplation. They took the tension in the room and turned it into learning.
I never forgot that approach and continued to learn from Robert when he and I both returned to New Mexico to continue our work for the Sierra Club. Robert spent these last years working to stop new permits for uranium extraction at Mount Taylor and working to protect Chaco from rampant oil and gas extraction. Our Sierra Club family sends all of our love to Robert’s wife Hazel, who continues to fight for environmental, food and health justice and to their children and grandchildren. We share in your loss and have so deeply benefited from Robert’s legacy.
What follows is a wonderful interview that the Sierra Club’s Tom Valtin did with Robert.
— Camilla Feibelman