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"We Do Not Want to Die in Silence": Indigenous People Demand Rights as Draft Climate Deal Reached

December 07, 2015
Story
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Negotiators from 195 countries at the United Nations climate summit have approved draft text for what they hope will form an accord to curb global carbon emissions by the end of this week. Among the issues still under discussion is whether the deal will mention indigenous rights. On Sunday, indigenous people from around the world took to the waters here in Paris to defend their rights and the environment. "We’re very, very concerned about the fact that reference to indigenous rights and human rights have been moved into an annex in the Paris text," Cree activist Clayton Thomas-Muller says. "It means that they’ve been put aside to be discussed after the weekend."


TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting from Paris, France, at the United Nations climate summit, where [negotiators] from 195 countries have approved draft text for what they hope will form a global accord to curb carbon emissions by the end of this week. The document still contains more than 900 square brackets to signify areas of disagreement. Contentious issues that will need to be resolved include financing for developing countries, the precise carbon emission reduction targets, and whether or not the text will explicitly outline different responsibilities for developing and developed countries, that are responsible for the majority of carbon emissions to date.

A day after negotiators reached their draft agreement, indigenous people from around the world took to the waters here in Paris to demand their rights be included in the final accord. While indigenous communities are often at the front lines of climate change, indigenous leaders here in Paris say they fear their rights may be left out of the deal. On Sunday, the indigenous groups staged a kayak flotilla paddling along the Villette Canal. On a bridge over the canal, they unfurled banners to demand the end of oil drilling on indigenous lands and the defense of water. Standing on the bridge as kayakers sailed beneath us, I spoke with Clayton Thomas-Muller, a Cree activist from Canada.

CLAYTON THOMAS-MULLER: We have indigenous peoples from dozens of First Nations and indigenous nations, from the Amazon to the Arctic, that are all here on this canal in Paris. They’re coming down the river to really, you know, demonstrate our commitment to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth. You know, we’re very, very concerned about the fact that reference to indigenous rights and human rights have been moved into an annex in the Paris text.

AMY GOODMAN: What does that mean?

CLAYTON THOMAS-MULLER: Well, what it means is that in the operational language of the Paris agreement, the European Union, the U.K. and Norway and the United States have been meddling in having indigenous peoples’ rights protected in the agreement, in the new climate agreement.

AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean to put them into an annex?

CLAYTON THOMAS-MULLER: Well, it means that they’ve been put aside to be discussed after the weekend. And so we’re extremely concerned. And so, today’s action is about asserting our territorial jurisdiction and sovereignty as indigenous peoples. We have rights, priority rights. And today’s action is about sharing our cosmology and connection to the sacredness of Mother Earth with the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Cree activist Clayton Thomas-Muller, speaking at a kayak flotilla here in Paris, France, where indigenous people from across the Americas described the threats they face to their lands and livelihoods. The Mundurukú people of Brazil are fighting a series of mega-dams that could bring massive deforestation, flooding and displacement, while the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, Canada, fight tar sands extraction. Democracy Now!’s Amy Littlefield spoke to some of the participants.

CRYSTAL LAMEMAN: My name is Crystal Lameman, and I’m a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, which is in northern Alberta, Canada. And the goal of our people coming here today to be on the water is, as indigenous peoples, we have an understanding with our one true mother that water is life. Nipiy pimatsowin. Water is life. We are the first to experience the causes and effects of climate change. When we’re pulling fish from the water that have cancers hanging off of them, we don’t live in Third World country. We live in Canada, what is supposed to be a developed First World country. And the indigenous peoples in that country are having to fight for their basic human rights to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: And what role do you have in the negotiations?

CRYSTAL LAMEMAN: We don’t have a role. We walk around with badges that say "observer." We’re not allowed into the negotiating spaces.

MARIA LEUSA MUNDURUKÚ: [translated] We have come to Paris to bring our struggle to the world for the recognition of our rights. The Brazilian government intends to build seven large dams on our river, the first being São Luis do Tapajos. And this will kill indigenous peoples and our river. We are suffering a great threat to our life, to our river, and our mother is screaming for help.

CASEY CAMP-HORINEK: I’m a member of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma. My colonized name is Casey Camp-Horinek. I want to acknowledge the pain of the people of France from the tragedy that was here on November the 13th. As we have said often, we indigenous people understand what it feels to be attacked. The Ponca people in north-central Oklahoma are suffering from environmental genocide. The first onslaught of the settlers came with bayonets, with rifles, with smallpox blankets. But now they come with refineries, with fracking, with pipelines, and they kill the air, they kill the earth, they kill the water. And that kills my people.

CHIEF RAONI METUKTIRE: [translated] Indigenous peoples are all friends. In fact, we are all family. All of humanity is family. And so, we appeal to the governments to stop violating their own laws, to stop violating our rights, to stop pillaging and exploiting our lands and territories. We do not want to die in silence. We want to be heard. We want to be heeded. It’s in your best interest, as well.

UNIDENTIFIED: The Earth is alive! The Earth is alive!

AMY GOODMAN: Chief Raomi Metuktire, a leader of the Kayapo people of Brazil. They call themselves the Mebêngôkre. The chief wears a traditional large wooden disc in his lower lip. He has played a leading role in the struggle against the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, which is now under construction in Brazil. Special thanks to Amy Littlefield, John Hamilton and Juan Carlos Dávila for that report.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll go to activists taking on corporate power at COP21 and then to a French journalist who was held hostage by ISIS for 10 months. He’ll respond to President Obama’s address. Stay with us.


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