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Greta Thunberg, Rose Whipple & Eriel Deranger on Listening to Indigenous People Amid Climate Crisis

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At the end of Friday’s major climate rally in Madrid, a group of indigenous activists took the stage to sing and give speeches, but after some speeches their microphone was cut and the lights on stage were shut off as they spoke. Democracy Now! spoke to Eriel Deranger of Indigenous Climate Action and later asked Greta Thunberg and Rose Whipple about the importance of listening to indigenous voices.

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AMY GOODMAN: A group of indigenous leaders then took to the stage to sing and give speeches. But after some of their speeches, the microphone was cut, and the lights on the stage were shut off as others tried to speak. This is Eriel Deranger, founder and executive director of the group Indigenous Climate Action of Canada, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, describing what happened.

ERIEL DERANGER: My name is Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, and I’m a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the executive director of Indigenous Climate Action. And I’m from Canada, Treaty 8 territory. …

This was the Futures for Friday march. And what happened was, there was an indigenous bloc, and throughout the march we really struggled to maintain our position right behind the front of the banner. And so, when the indigenous people finally made it to the front and the stage, they took the stage. And I think it was a really symbolic act because of the fact that we were pushed back in the march. People were frustrated with us. It’s symbolic of the fact that this is exactly what happens inside the UNFCCC and the COP. We are continually pushed to the side, pushed back. Our issues are constantly pushed back. And it’s only when we do things like demand action by taking the stage that we see our voices heard. And so, not only did we take the stage, but they wanted us off. And we just kept singing and chanting. They turned off all the lights. They took the microphones away. And we still kept chanting and singing songs, including singing songs, the “Women’s Warrior Song.” There were women from the Global South that were speaking, women from the North that were singing. It was a beautiful moment in which indigenous peoples symbolically took the stage, took our land back, took our voices back from the people that have been leading the climate movement. But the reality is, is that indigenous peoples are leading climate solutions.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Eriel Deranger, founder and executive director of the group Indigenous Climate Action. Today, in Greta Thunberg’s first press conference at the U.N. climate summit, alongside other youth activists of Fridays for Future, she and indigenous youth leader Rose Whipple answered just one question. It was from Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: Hi. I’m Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! My question is for Rose and for Greta. You opened the conference with indigenous youth. Greta, you’ve traveled the world and the United States, and you’ve gone to the Standing Rock Reservation, the Pine Ridge Reservation. I wanted to ask you why indigenous resistance is so important to you. And, rose, if you can talk about what you’re demanding of the U.S. government now?

GRETA THUNBERG: It is so incredibly important that we listen to indigenous people, because they are suffering and their rights are being violated across the world. And they are also among the ones who are being hit the most and quickest by the climate and environmental emergency. And also they have been living in balance with nature for hundreds of years, so we have, I think — we need to listen to them, because they have valuable knowledge we need in this crucial time of crisis.

LISA NEUBAUER: Thank you, Greta. Rose?

ROSE WHIPPLE: Thank you for your question. That is a question that we’re very — we’re never asked. We’re never asked what we want and what we need, because right now, for over 500 years, we have been on the frontlines dying, risking our lives. We are still in prison today as political prisoners for fighting for our lands, for our waters. And I think right now indigenous people worldwide, in general, are just asking to be listened to, to be stood with, and not to be in the background, to be in the front, because we are on the frontlines doing this work today, right now. We deserve to be listened to, and we also deserve to have our lands back.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Rose Whipple, Santee Dakota, Ho-Chunk, Winnebago youth activist with the SustainUS youth delegation, and 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden.

When we come back, we’ll look at the polluters bankrolling this year’s climate summit. We’ll take you on what the activists called a “toxic tour” — until the police shut it down. Stay with us.

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