Although comprising a small percentage of the world’s population, Indigenous Peoples protect around 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity. For many, their traditional knowledge and way of life — often stretching back through centuries or even millennia — exist because of an interdependent relationship with the land.
While a diverse range of Indigenous Nations and communities can be found around the globe — each with their own histories, cultures and livelihoods — many tend to share an approach to life deeply rooted in reciprocity. To put it succinctly, Indigenous groups have successfully overseen vast ecological areas that maintain a life preserving balance — without exploitation.
Indigenous peoples and local communities play an outsized role in the governance, conservation and sustainable use of the world’s biodiversity and nature. They actively protect and conserve an astounding diversity of globally relevant species, habitats and ecosystems […] | ICCA Territories of Life Report, 2021
Indigenous land management includes conservation at its heart; safeguarding where they live and their culture from logging, drilling, oil pipelines, deforestation, mining, fish and marine decimation — all ongoing issues — that underpin what will ultimately save the planet.
For those of us who fight for sustainability and climate action but come from non-Indigenous communities (applicable to individuals, governments and policymakers alike); we must ensure our support of environmentalism does not centre our needs/voices or encroach on Indigenous sovereignty. We do not have the right to demand or expect unrestricted access to sacred, cultural knowledge — especially if the steps we use to shield our lifeways from climate collapse comes at the cost of failing to protect theirs. Our climate advocacy must never lose sight of true allyship; Indigenous representation must be championed and secured at every climate conference, governmental panel or decision making process that aims to address this global threat.
Climate activists are instrumental when it comes to establishing initiatives that raise awareness and generate actionable change; a number of them are Indigenous youth leading the way to a future aimed at ensuring climate justice …
A member of the Otomi-Toltec Nation from Central Mexico (now living in New York City), Xiye Bastida is one of the principal coordinators of Fridays For Future; a youth-led global climate strike movement. She is also the co-founder of Re-Earth Initiative — an international organization that focuses on highlighting the intersectionality of the climate crisis.
Txai Suruí, (from the Paiter Suruí people of Rondônia, Brazil) comes from an area of the Amazon that has witnessed some of the most extreme deforestation. Industries such as mining, timber extraction and agricultural development have caused biodiversity to disappear and left life-giving rivers to run dry. As founder and coordinator of the Movement of Indigenous Youth of Rondônia; Suruí works alongside the Kanindé legal team to defend and preserve the ancestral lands and rights of her people.
From the Hän Gwich’in and Sičangu-Oglala Lakota tribes in the U.S. (Alaska and South Dakota, respectively), Quannah Chasinghorse is a proud land and climate protector and model. Through her work with The Alaska Wilderness League, she helps to defend Alaska’s significant public wildlands from oil and gas drilling and other industrial threats. Her rising social media presence and ascent into modelling helps Quannah raise awareness and advocates for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit movement (MMIWG2S).
Autumn Peltier is an Anishinaabe Indigenous rights advocate from the Wiikwemkoong First Nation, Ontario, Canada. Since being appointed as Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation in 2019; Autumn has gone on to speak at climate and economical conferences to advocate for global clean water policies and protections. She became a water activist at just eight years of age after learning pollution had poisoned the water supply of a neighbouring Indigenous community.
As National Director of the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network; Amelia ‘Millie’ Telford (Bundjalung People of Northern New South Wales, Australia) works tirelessly to protect and preserve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lifeways from the harmful impacts of fossil fuel extraction and its resulting climate change. Millie is committed to conserving and developing a more sustainable future based on robust climate justice.
India Logan-Riley (Māori People, New Zealand) is the co-founder of Te Ara Whatu, a Māori and Pasifika youth climate action group that works to find climate change solutions focused on protecting Indigenous sovereignty. Rooted through her traditional teachings, India educates and mobilizes resistance to further land development and practices that perpetuate cultural and environmental degradation. In 2021 she received the Stanford University Bright Award.
Laetania Belai Djandam
Laetania Belai Djandam (Dayak Tribe, Borneo Island, Indonesia) began her climate activism at age seven when she participated in a river clean-up. As a young adult, Laetania continues advocating for sustainable forest and land management; focusing on halting illegal logging and other industries from contributing to global warming through the destruction, displacement and degradation of Borneo Island wildlife and soil.
Josefa Cariño Tauli
Josefa Cariño Tauli (Ibaloi-Kankanaey Igorot People, Cordillera, Philippines) is a committee member and policy co-coordinator for Global Youth Biodiversity Network; a youth-led organization that aims to halt ecological loss around the world. Working to push international leaders to take bold climate action, Josefa raises awareness about embracing sustainability and equitable climate justice.
Martina Fjällberg (Sámi People) is a reindeer herder and climate activist from Sweden; the Sámi are Indigenous Nations that live in the Arctic regions of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. Currently the vice president of Sáminuorra; a Sámi youth organisation that aims to promote and protect the interests and rights of the Sámi People; Martina also works to safeguard nature and cultural conservation efforts from the impacts of climate change.
Climate change is something that will impact all of us; this fact is inescapable. As a global collective we are responsible for ensuring our planet is protected and maintained so that generations to come can live sustainably. Any action we support or undertake has to include and preserve Indigenous communities; their youth is showing us the way forward. It’s time we follow their voices and causes; our futures — and theirs — are all connected.
How are you supporting Indigenous groups from around the world? Does your climate action defend Indigenous rights?
It’s Time to Put Indigenous Peoples First at the UN Biodiversity Talks – Climate Home News