Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 7, 2015

Indigenous Canoe Flotilla in Paris: Defending the Earth and Sacred Water

Indigenous Canoe Flotilla in Paris: Defending the Earth and Sacred Water

Indigenous Peoples from the Americas in Paris -- from the Arctic to the Amazon -- sent dramatic messages to world leaders at COP21

By Brenda Norrell
Photos by Allan Lissner, Deborah Parker, Ayse Gursoz

Indigenous Peoples in canoes and kayaks from the Americas delivered powerful messages of “Leave fossil fuels in the ground,” and “Protect sacred water,” as the United Nations COP21 negotiations in Paris continued to exclude Indigenous rights, while promoting “greenwashers” and corporate profiteers.
During today’s Canoes 2 Paris Flotilla, Indigenous Peoples warned of the worst consequences of climate change, and offered solutions to protect Mother Earth. The event was proposed by the Kichwa community of the Sarayaku in the Amazon, and included Indigenous Peoples from as far away as the Arctic.
Today’s Flotilla served as a platform to reject false climate solutions, and to deliver key documents designed as a means to address climate change.
The Indigenous Environmental Network and Amazon Watch launched the event calling on world leaders to keep fossil fuels in the ground, which was signed by over 150 organizations.
Lummi youths from the Pacific Northwest, were among those from the Americas journeying to Paris for the Flotilla. (Photo right by Deborah Parker.)
Felix Santi, Sarayaku, said, “We’re here to present our proposal of kawsak-sacha: the living rainforest, the living Amazon. This proposal respects all living beings and helps achieve a balance of our planet, our Mother Earth. Indigenous peoples live with this wisdom – live in harmony with these living beings, and we’re here to protect the lagoons and the water, the trees and the mountains. We are the balance, we live the balance and this is our contribution here in Paris.”
“Only if our proposal is heeded will we be able to ensure the future, ensure the planet for future generations – so we present this proposal to the governments of the world and we declare indigenous peoples’ territories of vital and crucial importance to the future of our planet. There must be no more oil drilling, no more mining, no more logging on our lands and territories, and we must embrace this indigenous proposal of the living forest.”
The Kawsak Sacha “Living Forest” proposal was presented from the Amazon rainforest by the Kichwa Indigenous people of Sarayaku. The Indigenous flotilla on the Bassin de la Villette, included  Sarayaku’s “Canoe of Life,” which has traveled 6000 miles to Paris with a message from the Amazon.
During this week’s events, Kandi Mossett, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara from North Dakota, challenged the corporate profiteers at COP21.
“You are killing our people,” Mossett told Suez, among the oil and gas industries in COP21’s corporate side event. As Mossett spoke out against the false solutions, undercover police rushed in and arrested two of the activists. The dramatic call-out of corporate profiteers, as police rushed in, was caught on video by the New Internationalist.
Mossett, who was not arrested, brought the passionate truth of her people who are dying from the disease and destruction, crime and violence, of oil and gas drilling, and fracking, in North Dakota.
Today, Indigenous women leaders of the North and South Americas signed a first ever treaty agreement, declaring solidarity in the movement to protect Mother Earth from extractive industries. (Photo below by Ayse Gursoz.)
Indigenous Peoples protested this week as official negotiations threatened to exclude Indigenous rights.
“The flotilla action this afternoon was made all the more poignant and necessary, following the first week of negotiations at COP21, where – despite vocal objections and protestations by Indigenous Peoples and their allies – the operative text of the Paris Accord has had the language concerning the rights of Indigenous Peoples ‘annexed’ (meaning it’s not totally in the draft agreement, nor is it being fully excluded), rendering it’s future inclusion questionable.”
Indigenous Peoples from the Amazon to the Arctic and their allies said in a statement that they will continue to gather to demand real climate solutions, including bottom-up initiatives originating in Indigenous knowledge, culture, and spirituality.
For the second week of negotiations in Paris, Indigenous delegates are calling on their allies to push the parties involved in direct negotiations to reverse this damaging decision, thereby taking the climate change movement forwards, not backwards.
During today's Flotilla, delegations from the Arctic spoke out. They recently fought Shell’s drilling in the Arctic and now are fighting to defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“The ground we walk on is literally melting beneath us. Indigenous peoples of the world are being affected by this climate chaos first, and our issues are compounded by the assault on our traditional territories by the fossil fuel extractive industries,” said Faith Gemmill, executive director REDOIL.
“We kicked Shell out of the Arctic but immediately following that, the state and our congressional representatives called for drilling in the last 5 percent of America’s only Arctic coast: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is sacred to my people. This is our home, these are our sacred places, and it is our belief that the destruction of humanity begins if/when the oil companies gain access to these sacred places. We’re here to call upon the governments of the world to recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples within the operative, legally binding text. No more business as usual – we don’t have the luxury of time. Humanity’s survival is on the line.  We need a just transition to sustainable energy, economies and communities.”

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