North American Indigenous peoples call for strong climate action in Copenhagen

Date of publication: 
7 December 2009

A multi-generational delegation of 21 Indigenous Peoples from North America have arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark this week to advocate for the incorporation of Indigenous Peoples rights in the language of a fair, binding, and science-based global climate treaty at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The delegation is comprised of Native American, Alaskan Native and First Nation activists and leaders from the communities most affected by climate change and fossil fuel development in North America. They represent many Nations including Cree, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Blackfoot, Ojibwe, Kachiquel Mayan, Pasqua, Gwich’in, Navajo, Mikisew Cree, Inupiaq, Mohawk, Oneida, Zuni, and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

The delegation, coordinated by the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), are attending the international climate negotiations to speak on behalf of their Nations, communities and future generations in support of strong climate action and also to network with other Indigenous Peoples from across the world.

Nikke Alex, 24, an IEN youth delegate from the Navajo Nation, AZ, said, “My community has been greatly affected my climate change. In my community, many do not have basic utilities like running water and electricity, and over the summer, the wells and springs dried up forcing my family and many others to drive over 30 miles for water. I’m happy to see other Indigenous youth here to voice their concerns about decisions being made that will impact their future.”

In order to protect their homelands from climate chaos, the IEN delegation is pushing for not only strong targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also demanding effective, fair and equitable methods to address the climate issue. Global expectations for Copenhagen outcomes have dimmed in recent weeks, most prominently due to inaction by the world’s biggest emitters, such as the United States and Canada. IEN delegates will work to pressure their home governments to step up their efforts to combat climate change.

We are here to tell the world, as the Indigenous Peoples of North America we will not sit on the side lines as the American and Canadian governments systematically kill international climate negotiations in the interest of promoting dirty fossil fuel development such as the Tar sands in Northern Alberta, Canada,” says Clayton Thomas-Muller, Tar Sands Campaigner for IEN.

The delegation will also be working in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples from around the globe to advocate the inclusion of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ (UNDRIP) in any climate agreement. In addition to lobbying, the delegation will be educating other UNFCCC and Klimaforum 09 attendees through workshops, non-violent direct actions, and most importantly, informing their own communities about progress in Copenhagen.

The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) is a United States-based non-governmental (Indigenous) organization formed in 1990 addressing environmental and economic justice challenges.