My Indigenous collective demands climate justice

| 29th October 2021 |
'We brought sacred water from the highest parts of the Andes to the Americas section of the British Museum, which is full of stolen objects and symbols of colonial power.'

At the Glasgow summit we want to see all governments recognise indigenous peoples and respect the laws that should protect our communities and territories.

The Minga Indigena is a collective of indigenous people from the entire continent of the Americas. We began our UK journey to COP26 this week at the British Museum in London. Why did we start here?

I come from the Mapuche nation in southern Chile. For decades forestry companies have occupied our ancestral lands, bringing not only crop monocultures but also violent criminalisation and militarisation.

This is only part of the way that successive governments have contravened international norms and agreements which are supposed to safeguard our collective rights.

Consent

Our community is also particularly affected by energy generation investment projects that alter the course of our rivers, lakes and streams.

These waters are sacred to the Mapuche nation, and for good reason; they are the basis of our food sources which are now deeply damaged.

Predictably, we also suffer directly the effects of climate change in every part of our lives, from agriculture to fish stocks, to traditional plant medicines which are becoming more and more scarce.

Additionally, some of the ‘solutions’ to climate mitigation are actually harming our communities, for example the categorisation of our territories using international protection standards, but without the consultation and participation of our traditional authorities and frameworks.

Conventional renewable energy technologies such as wind farms are installed in the territories of our indigenous peoples without our consent.

Accountability

On 25 October 2021, we brought sacred water from the highest parts of the Andes to the Americas section of the British Museum, which is full of stolen objects and symbols of colonial power.

At the Glasgow summit we want to see all governments recognise indigenous peoples and respect the laws that should protect our communities and territories.

Our ceremony was not only a witness to centuries of colonialism and repression but also a call for a Justice Reset which meets the needs and contributions of indigenous people in a meaningful way.

The Minga Indígena demands that the majority world recognises the deep unsustainability of so-called ‘sustainable’ and other practices in our territories, and takes steps to make binding agreements that honour all life on Earth.

Today, climate change is the most important issue that we face as humanity and we must address it by taking a radically different path towards relating to one another in the future.

I believe that we must put aside our political, economic, social and racial differences to ensure the future not only of humanity but of all beings on the planet, including those which are less visible. This transition to a new paradigm must have in it the framework and accountability which will lay the groundwork of climate justice.

Cultures

Bearing witness in the British Museum to our struggle represents this paradigm shift; the fact that the Museum plans to return the sacred elements of our cultures in America is the recognition that great wrongs have been visited upon indigenous peoples for centuries.

This week we have shown that the Minga Indígena are here to try to improve the relationships between our cultures; to bring the word and strength of our peoples, the wisdom of the ancestors, and ultimately our knowledge and perspectives as indigenous peoples.

The ‘culture’ presented and kept in museums should be part of everyday life, and museums have a role in reflecting on and debating the issues around climate change so that their visitors can better understand the challenges we face together.

These institutions can contribute to improved relationships between different cultures and bring to the public both the work and histories of indigenous people and our part in fighting climate change.

Respect

We know that the British Museum refuses to disclose how much money it receives from fossil fuel companies – our presence is a reminder to them of their responsibility, both historic and present, to foster climate justice through transparency and reparations.

The COP26 summit is an opportunity for all of us to understand the critical moment we are living in, and that new agreements and policies that centre the protection of our planet are with the full participation and implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Now more than ever we must all understand that the remaining places of the greatest biodiversity are under the power and care of groups and communities such as those represented by the Minga Indigena.

At the Glasgow summit we want to see all governments recognise indigenous peoples and respect the laws that should protect our communities and territories.

Connection

We demand that all documents generated at COP26 include the full participation and self-determination of our peoples, that they do not decide on our territories without consulting us and above all that they respect the self-determination of indigenous people in our territories.

I came to the British Museum with the aim to truly heal the wounds of historic colonial relationships. We have to heal it so that together we can make new agreements to take us to a truly just climate settlement for everyone, not just the majority world.

In the same way, we want to show delegates to COP26 the deep relationship between indigenous peoples have with our abundant and important landscapes, in order to in turn deepen their own knowledge of our extraordinary home.

We need to show delegates the vital connection between our ancestral claims to these places and the care and devotion we as indigenous peoples can provide to them. Finally, we demand to be included; we are no longer prepared to accept any climate process that takes place without us.

This Author

Calfín Lafkenche is a climate campaigner from Mapuche on the coast of the Araucania Region in the Lafkenche territory in southern Chile.

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