At the UN COP26 Climate Summit, Indigenous voices call for more than just talk

Ron Turney, Water Protector of the White Earth Nation, has been seriously filming what he says shows the effects of drilling fluid spills and aquifer breach In northern Minnesota, where a Canadian energy company Crude oil pipeline replacement completed in September.

The Line 3 replacement project, which Enbridge first announced in 2014, has been fiercely opposed by Native American tribes, environmental activists and celebrities — who recently urged President Joe Biden to withdraw their permits — arguing that the pipeline would only exacerbate climate change and threaten water as it harvests the people of Ojibwe wild rice. Indeed, he said, he had seen filthy chemicals and fouling of what should be pure wetlands and water.

“It’s really frustrating to watch a river die here right before your very eyes,” said Tourney, who is a member of the Indigenous Environment Network, a coalition of grassroots groups and environmental sanitation activists.

A chemical release of drilling fluid was underway near the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota.Ron Tierney

He plans to bring his concerns to the international stage in a panel during the two-week United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, which begins Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland. After the annual conference was canceled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 event attracts heads of state and world leaders, such as Biden and members of his administration, including John Kerry, the country’s first climate envoy, and Home Secretary Depp. Haaland, the first Native American in this position.

At stake will be whether nearly 200 countries can agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to rapidly warming the planet and climate-related disasters, with the goal of reaching “net zero” emissions by mid-century. But while the issues diplomats discuss will have consequences for the entire planet, the less-heard voices of indigenous people, who have historically been excluded from conversations about managing their ancestral lands, plan to make their presence known through groups like the indigenous peoples. Caucus and Cultural Survival, an Aboriginal-led NGO, and committees like the one in which Turney participates.

Some groups have expressed difficulty traveling this year to Scotland amid Covid travel restrictions. A third of the small island nations and territories in the Pacific, where sea-level rise threatens their very existence, are said to have sent no government leaders, The Guardian newspaper reported last week.

“It’s frustrating jumping through hoops, and they give us lip service and some appreciation, but we want real policy change that truly recognizes and respects our beliefs,” Tierney said of the conference.

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in an email from Glasgow prior to COP26 that Indigenous groups would make a point to say that emissions reduction targets promoted by governments are meaningless if it is based on coal and other things. Fossil fuels are not being abandoned.

Tom Goldtooth speaks in front of the White House during People vs Fossil Fuels action week.Ron Tierney

“We will demand Aboriginal rights to full recognition,” said Goldtoth, who is of Dennis and Dakota ancestry.

The struggle of indigenous peoples, who are often on the front lines of the climate crisis, exemplified by the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and Forest fires sweeping tribal lands In the western United States, at COP26. Indigenous leaders and “traditional knowledge holders” whose practices can be useful in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change will be highlighted in some events and in panels It is usually attended by climate activists, academic researchers and celebrities.

The groups say that the indigenous perspective cannot be reduced with Spotlight on the United Nations that while about 370 million people identify themselves as indigenous, or roughly 5 percent of the world’s population, they occupy and control a large portion of the land, about 20 percent.

In 2007, the United Nations adopted Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a non-binding resolution recognizing human rights and fundamental freedoms. But advocates and academics warn that those groups around the world who are finding their own solutions to the climate crisis cannot do so in a silo, especially when so many of them do not have the financial power or influence to defend themselves.

“There are opportunities for indigenous peoples to be recognized at COP26 — if only states and stakeholders are willing to listen and take action accordingly,” said Kristen Carpenter, professor and director of the American Indian Law Program at the University of Colorado.

Native American activists and environmental organizations say they are counting on the US delegation to ensure that indigenous communities are at the fore.

This month, when Kerry addressed the National Congress of the American Indians, the nation’s oldest and largest tribal organization, he painted a terrible picture of Indigenous communities: the effects of climate change threaten lands and livelihoods.

“Indigenous lifestyles that have persisted around the world for thousands of years are also on the front lines,” He said.

“Your resilience is essential to the world,” Kerry said, adding that Earth’s survival is “inextricably linked to having indigenous leadership in our voice.”

“If nations don’t join us with us, and leave people who run a lot of land, it’s no longer just a moral issue.”

Professor Kyle White said:

While this recognition is important, said Kyle White, a University of Michigan professor focused on environment and sustainability and a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Board, it needs support through action. Co-authored a report published Thursday in the newspaper Science Magazine Which found centuries of forced migration of indigenous people by European and American settlers, leaving them on marginal lands more vulnerable to the risks posed by climate change.

He said that the hands of tribal states and indigenous organizations are restricted from taking drastic measures or opposing projects on their lands, often getting opposition from government agencies and energy companies.

After the Line 3 replacement project, which has cut more than 300 miles across Minnesota and Qatar tribal reserves and treaty lands, was completed, Native American activists and supporters marched in Washington this month to demand Biden take a more aggressive stance against fossil fuel projects.

As the protests intensified and led to dozens of arrests and an attempted occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, calls from protesters to amplify the voices of indigenous leaders mounted.

Whyte, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, said it’s an example of Aboriginal boredom — and a warning “for the current generation of privileged people who haven’t learned their lessons.”

“If states don’t join us, and leave people who are overseeing a lot of land, it’s no longer just a moral issue,” he added. “It will have a devastating effect on how quickly the rest of the world will reach sustainability.”

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